According to the latest America’s Health Rankings report, 2014 has been a year of ups and downs. As a country, we’ve adopted healthful preventive practices like stopping smoking, but dropped the ball in areas like physical fitness. Adolescent immunization rates increased but obesity and physical inactivity among adults continued to rise.
In addition to personal behaviours that affect health, the report considers community well-being, which includes air pollution, violent crime, premature death, diabetes rates, health insurance and public health funding as part of their ranking criteria.
Some states have lagged behind for years and not improved: Mississippi continues to have a physically inactive adult population and Arkansas had a big increase again this year (12 percent) in adult obesity. Placing near the bottom of the list at number 48 is Louisiana, which struggles with low infant birth weights, an indication of poor nutrition. But several states held on to their top spots and even made improvements.
Hawaii hangs on to the top spot thanks to big drops in smoking and binge drinking, as well as lowered child poverty rates — a 39 percent decrease over 25 years coupled with this year’s 17 percent increase in child immunizations.
Runner up for the second year, Vermont saw decreases in smoking and binge drinking, and lower infant mortality rates. But public health funding decreased by 30 percent and pertussis (whooping cough) incidents surged by 500 percent — the nation’s second highest rate.
Boasting an impressive child immunization rate of 78.5 percent and a 9 percent decrease in drug-related deaths, the Bay state also increased numbers for adult physical activity and lowered preventable hospital visit numbers.
More adults here became physically active, diabetes cases decreased, and cancer rates in the state also dropped. The issue now is an increase in child poverty rates.
Utah ranks lowest in two critical areas: adults who smoke, and child poverty. But last year the state also saw a 16 percent increase in physical inactivity among the adult population.
The rest of the top 10 rankings include: #6 Minnesota, #7 New Hampshire, #8 Colorado, #9 North Dakota, and #10 Nebraska.