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“Freedom and Unity” and Excellent Health

If you’ve ever wondered which of our 50 states has the healthiest populace, wonder no longer – someone’s keeping track. For the first time in its 18 years of rankings, the United Health Foundation has placed Vermont at number 1. The Green Mountain State has been steadily climbing in the rankings since taking 8th in 2001, up from an initial position of 16th in 1990.

  • Second place went to Minnesota, down from its 1st place finish the last 4 years and in 7 other years since 1990.
  • Third place went to Hawaii, followed by New Hampshire, Connecticut and Utah.
  • Mississippi came in last with Louisiana at 49th. Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee complete the bottom 5.

So what distinguishes a state like Vermont from a state like Mississippi?
Vermont was in the top 5 states for:

  • a low rate of preventable hospitalizations
  • a low prevalence of obesity
  • a low percentage of children in poverty
  • ready access to adequate prenatal care
  • ready access to primary care

What’s interesting is Vermont ranked 41st for per capita public health spending: it spends only $93 per person compared to a U.S. average of $162. Why the study’s authors don’t reward the state for great outcomes at low spending is beyond me.

And lest you go resenting the second smallest state (it only has 1 area code!) for thinking its perfect, Vermont also has some bad habits: nearly 1 in 5 Vermonters are binge drinkers.

As for Mississippi, its future doesn’t seem likely to get brighter any time soon as it has been among the bottom 3 states for as long as they’ve been ranking them. Mississippi does rank well for ready access to prenatal care, a low prevalence of binge drinking and high per capital public health spending. But it’s in the bottom ten for 15 of the study’s 20 measures, including: prevalence of obesity, percentage of children in poverty, infant mortality rate, rate of cardiovascular deaths and the premature death rate.

For more information and to see how your state fared, go here: http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/ahr2007/results.html

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • marcy February 28, 2008, 7:45 pm

    I wonder how Vermont is able to deliver so much care for so little expenditure. The report incidates that government plays a significant role and the successful ones will have to be studied to create models. I still wonder what explanis the low obesity? In a rural state most live in their cars. If there is so much overlap between the obese and the binge drinkers that the percentage making poor life style choices remains low, that might help to explain Vermont’s good profile.

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