Unhealthy America in 2011


Despite three years of health improvements, the United Health Foundation found that the nation made no progress in 2011 and, in fact, there were dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes. For every person who quit smoking in 2011, someone else became obese, according to the report.

The 22nd edition of America’s Health Rankings report revealed that increases in diabetes, obesity and children in poverty offset improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths. The lack of improvement is a drop from the 0.5% average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010.

State rankings revealed that Vermont was the healthiest state for the fifth year in a row. The state has been in the top 20 since the study began in 1990. In general, Northeastern states were healthy, with New Hampshire (2), Connecticut (3) and Massachusetts (5) in the top five, along with Hawaii at number four.



“Where people live matters,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group. “Every state can make improvements to ensure healthier quality of lives for their residents. In the history of the Rankings, we have seen many examples of stakeholders coming together to improve their standing.”

Two other Northeastern states, New York (18) and New Jersey (11) showed huge improvement, moving up six places. The report mostly attributed that improvement to increased smoking cessation.

Mississippi was the least healthy state for 10 years running. Since the study began, the state has always been in the bottom five. The state’s biggest challenges, according to the report, are its high prevalence of obesity, high percentage of children in poverty, high rate of preventable hospitalizations and high infant mortality rate.

Since 2001 the percent of the population smoking has decreased by 25.4%. Unfortunately, there has been a 37.5% increase in the percent of the population that is obese. This year was the first year when every state’s obesity rate was at least 20%.

“While this year’s Rankings shows some important improvements, we also see some very alarming trends particularly diabetes and obesity that, left unchecked, will put further strain on our country’s already strained health care resources,” Tuckson said.

Last year, the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization reported that diabetes and prediabetes will account for roughly 10% of total health care spending by 2020 if the current trends continue. This year’s cost is estimated at $208 billion, but in 2020 it would be $500 billion.

To see the full rankings, go here.
For a snapshot of your state, go here.


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