Healthiest states in the U.S.

December 5, 2008 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

Hot off the presses: the annual report of America’s Health Ratings, 2008. (The entire report can be downloaded at this site.)

First, the list of healthiest states, ranked by the percentage a state is above or below the national norm:

1. Vermont (24.8)
2. Hawaii (21.6)
3. New Hampshire (19.9)
4. Minnesota (18.8)
5. Utah (18.2)
6. Massachusetts (17.7)
7. Connecticut (17.5)
8. Idaho (16.1)
9. Maine (15.3)
10. Washington (14.9)
11. Rhode Island (14.0)
12. North Dakota (12.5)
13. Nebraska (12.0)
14. Wyoming (11.8)
15. Iowa (11.6)
16. Oregon (11.3)
17. Wisconsin (10.3)
18. New Jersey (9.8)
19. Colorado (9.7)
20. Virginia (9.0)
21. South Dakota (7.5)
22. Kansas (8.7)
23. Montana (6.5)
24. California (5.3)
25. New York (3.8)
26. Maryland (3.4)
27. Michigan (2.0)
27. Pennsylvania (2.0)
29. New Mexico (1.7)
30. Alaska (1.3)
31. Illinois (0.8)
32. Ohio (0.7)
33. Arizona (0.4)
34. Indiana (-0.6)
35. Delaware (-1.6)
36. North Carolina (-3.2)
37. Kentucky (-3.6)
38. Missouri (-4.9)
39. West Virginia (-5.0)
40. Alabama (-7.0)
41. Georgia (-7.8)
42. Nevada (-7.9)
43. Arkansas (-8.1)
43. Oklahoma (-8.1)
45. Florida (-8.9)
46. Texas (-9.0)
47. Tennessee (-9.7)
48. South Carolina (-10.7)
49. Mississippi (-15.0)
50. Louisiana (-15.2)

As to why Vermont is the healthiest and Louisiana the unhealthiest states in the union:

Vermont moved from 16th in 1990 to the top position in 2007 and 2008. Vermont’s strengths include ranking in the top five states for a high rate of high school graduation, a low violent crime rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, high per capita public health funding, ready access to primary care, low geographic disparity of mortality rates within the state and a low premature death rate. It also ranks first overall in all health determinants combined and ranks in the top 20 states for all measures except two. Those two challenges are low immunization coverage with 79.8 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations and a high prevalence of binge drinking at 17.3 percent of the population. 

Louisiana is 50th this year, down from 49th in the 2007 Edition. It has been in the bottom two states since the 1990 Edition. The state ranks well for ready access to prenatal care, a low prevalence of binge drinking, high per capita public health funding and few poor mental health days. It ranks in the bottom five states on 10 of the 22 measures including a high prevalence of obesity, a high percentage of children in poverty, a high rate of uninsured population, a high incidence of infectious disease, a low rate of high school graduation and many preventable hospitalizations. It ranks 50th for all health determinants combined, so its overall ranking is unlikely to change significantly in the near future. 

For further details on these states — or any other — visit

It’s interesting to compare the ranking of state healthiness as determined by America’s Health Rankings to the rankings of those determined by CQ Press’ recent — and 16th annual — report of states’ health

CQ Press used “21 factors infant mortality to obesity to cancer rates” to compile the rankings. The AHR uses 22 measurements broken into either health determinants (personal behaviors, community and environmental factors, public and health policies, and clinical care) or health outcomes to compile its rankings.

Here is the list of the most healthy an unhealthy states as determined by CQ Press with the AHR rankings in parentheses:

1. Minnesota (4)
2. New Hampshire (3)
3. Vermont (1)
4. Maine (9)
5. Massachusetts (6)
6. Iowa (15)
7. Nebraska (13)
8. Hawaii (2)
9. South Dakota (21)
10. Rhode Island (11)
46. Florida (45)
47. Nevada (42)
48. New Mexico (29)
49. Louisiana (50)
50. Mississippi (49)

 The AHR provides a summary of what it deems successes and challenges to America’s healthcare:


Infectious Disease
51% decrease in the incidence of infectious disease from 40.7 cases in 1990 to 20.1 cases per 100,000 population in 2008.

Infant Mortality
33% decrease in the infant mortality rate from 10.2 deaths in 1990 to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008.

Prevalence of Smoking
33% decline in the prevalence of smoking from 29.5% in 1990 to 19.8% of the population in 2008.

Violent Crime
23% decline in the violent crime rate from 609 offenses in 1990 to 467 offenses per 100,000 population in 2008.

Cardiovascular Deaths
26%decline in the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 298.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 2008.

Children in Poverty
13% decline in the percentage of children in poverty from 20.6 percent in 1990 to 18% of persons under age 18 in 2008.

Occupational Fatalities
40% decline in the occupational fatalities rate from 8.7 deaths in 1990 to 5.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2008.

Immunization Coverage
45% increase in immunization coverage from 55.1% in 1996 to 80.% of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations in 2008.

High School Graduation 
Slight increase in the rate of high school graduation in the last few years; 74.7% of incoming ninth graders now graduate within four years.

Premature Death
14% decline from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 7,490 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population in 2008.


Prevalence of Obesity
127% increase in the prevalence of obesity from 11.6% in 1990 to 26.3% of the population in 2008.

Lack of Health Insurance 
16% increase in the rate of uninsured population from 13.4%in 1990 to 15.5% in 2008.

Poor Mental Health Days
In the last eight years, the number of poor mental health days per month increased from 3.0 to 3.4 days in the previous 30 days.

Poor Physical Health Days
In the last eight years, the number of poor physical health days per month increased from 3.2 to 3.6 days in the previous 30 days.

Here is an international comparison of health, with the most healthy countries at the top and the most unhealthy at the bottom. (Variables such as life expectancy, infant mortality, cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, and obesity rates were used to compile this list). America — where we at?!

San Marino
United Kingdom 
New Zealand 
United States of America
Czech Republic 

Certainly our lack of exercise is one of the reasons why we are such an unhealthy nation (33% of Americans are overweight with another 33% classified as obese). According to the CDC, 33-50% of Americans fail to meet the government’s minimum recommendation for exercise.

There are two national standards for exercise: The Health & Human Services Department calls for a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, or 75 minutes per week of rigorous aerobic activity, such as running. The Healthy People 2010 initiative recommends 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 20 minutes of rigorous aerobic activity at least five times per week. With these relatively low-bar recommendations and so many of us failing to move throughout the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if close to 80% of Americans fail to meet the even stricter guidelines of the Institute of Medicine, which recommends at least an hour per day or aerobic activity. 

Let’s get movin’.

Play, think…
J.R. Atwood


Entry filed under: etc, play. Tags: , , , , , , , .

An entrepreneurial teacher, advice from a hedge fund manager, and how kids don’t make people happy Brain steroids endorsed by medical experts

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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