The State of America’s Health

By Asha Farrah, Associate Specialist, Newborn Screening & Genetics, APHL

After attending a lunch briefing on America’s 2011 Health Rankings at the National Press Club in D.C., I realized that our nation has a lot of work to do in terms of making its people healthier. The briefing discussed state-by- state findings from the United Health Foundation’s annual assessment of the nation’s health. In the assessment, health was measured using several determinants including (but not limited to) childhood poverty, crime rate, infectious disease, high school graduation rate, prevalence of binge drinking, rate of uninsured, early prenatal care, immunization coverage, smoking rate, diabetes, and prevalence of obesity.

Vermont proved for the fifth time in a row that it is the healthiest state in the country (see graphic).

Vermont ranks #1 in State Health Rankings

Interestingly, states such as New York and New Jersey saw substantial improvements in the health rankings, which were attributed to lower smoking rates. Despite these gains, the report indicated that America still needs to make progress in many areas. Findings from the health rankings report are as follows:

  • Despite three years of gains, the nation made no progress in improving health in 2011.
  • There were modest decreases in smoking and preventable hospitalizations.
  • There were dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes.
  • No state had an obesity rate under 20%.
  • Dramatic increases in obesity, diabetes, and childhood poverty offset improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths.
  • Healthcare costs are continuing to skyrocket and expenditures are at 15% of our GDP.
  • There was a 21.5 % increase in child poverty in 2011.

Although the outlook was bleak, I am confident that if anyone can make a difference in their communities and can reverse some of these health outcomes, it will be public health workers.  It will be important that there is an emphasis on prevention and promoting community health in order to address many of these challenges.  We have a responsibility to work together to improve health outcomes for future generations in this country.


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