A study by the nonprofit United Health Foundation, funded by insurer UnitedHealth Group, placed the Green Mountain state atop the listing of healthy states in the U.S., declaring its residents the healthiest in the country. The 21-year-old ranking measures residents of each state on 22 activities that can predict future health, such as smoking and exercising, as well as events that have already occurred, like deaths or violent crime.
Among Vermont’s many virtues, according to the survey, the state boasts a high percentage of residents with health insurance, high per-capita public health funding, and ready availability of primary care physicians. The state has steadily risen in the rankings since placing 17th in 1997 and 1998.
Rounding out the top five healthiest states are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Hawaii.
At the other end of the scale is Mississippi, which scored at or near the bottom on 11 of the 22 survey measures, showing a high prevalence of obesity, high rate of childhood poverty, low high school graduation rates, limited availability of primary care physicians, and many preventable hospitalizations. Mississippi has ranked in the bottom three since 1990. Joining Mississippi in the bottom five are Oklahoma, Nevada, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The study said, overall, several encouraging trend lines continued to rise through 2009, the most recent year surveyed. Perhaps most notably: The percentage of people who smoke has fallen to 17.9% from about 30% in 1990.
Other significant national trends:
- Infant mortality rates have fallen 34%, to 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births from 10.2 in 1990.
- The incidence of infection disease has dropped 57% since 1990, to 17.5 cases per 100,000 people from 40.7 cases in 1990.
- Violent crime rates have decreased 29%, to 429 offenses per 100,000 people from 609 in 1990.
The full state list is at http://www.forbes.com/2010/12/06/healthiest-unhealthiest-states-lifestyle-health-uhc-table.html. More information about the study is at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/.