According to the 23rd Edition of United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings, Hawaii is No. 2 this year, up from No. 3 in 2011, in a ranking of all 50 states’ health data.
Americans are living longer due to several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, the rankings also found.
While premature cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18 percent, 34.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, Americans are experiencing troubling levels of obesity (27.8 percent of the adult population), diabetes (9.5 percent of the adult population), high blood pressure (30.8 percent of the adult population) and sedentary behavior (26.2 percent of the adult population).
UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities nationwide and in Hawaii, and has several programs in place designed to address these needs.
Programs educate U.S. and Hawaii citizens on how to live healthy lives and empower individuals to advocate for public health improvement.
“America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Hawaii,” said Ron Fujimoto, M.D., chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan for Hawaii. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative approaches to those challenges.”
This year’s report finds that, like every other state, Hawaii has both strengths and challenges.
* Low prevalence of obesity
* Low prevalence of smoking
* Low rate of preventable hospitalizations
* High prevalence of binge drinking
* Low high school graduation rate
* High prevalence of low birth-weight
UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health concerns underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.
Additionally, United Health Foundation is continuing to enhance its website, americashealthrankings.org, with a variety of tools to help individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources.
In his opening commentary to this year’s America’s Health Rankings, Reed Tuckson, M.D., medical advisor, United Health Foundation, and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group, pays tribute to the 450,000 public health workers nationwide who are working on the front lines to promote health and prevent disease.
UnitedHealthcare echoes this gratitude and thanks the many public health workers in Hawaii.
In particular, UnitedHealthcare acknowledges the efforts of Peter Whiticar, chief of the Hawaii State Department of Health STD/AIDS Prevention Branch since 1994. Whiticar is known for his tireless efforts in support of HIV prevention and care.
This year, Whiticar was awarded the Nicholas A. Rango M.D. Leadership Award for exemplifying superior leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
The five least healthy states are South Carolina (46), West Virginia (47), Arkansas (48), and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot.
States that showed the most substantial improvement in rankings include: New Jersey (nine slots), Maryland (five slots), and Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (three slots each).
This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved – that is, declined – in several key areas, including:
* Premature Death declined 18 percent in the last 23 years, from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 7,151 years in 2012. Premature deaths, like several other metrics, have leveled off in the last decade compared to gains in the 1990s.
* Cardiovascular Death declined 34.6 percent since 1990, from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 264.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues a relatively constant improvement of 2 percent to 3 percent each year.
* Cancer Death declined 7.6 percent from 197.5 deaths in 1990 to 182.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues to show a more rapid improvement in the last few years than earlier in the century.
However, while the Rankings show notable improvements in survival rates, the quality of these lives are threatened by epidemic rates of preventable chronic illness, including:
* Sedentary behavior, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, is at dangerous levels, affecting 26.2 percent of Americans. Rates of sedentary behavior are as high as 35 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
* Obesity is at an epidemic level. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent, or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even in the thinnest state, Colorado, one-fifth of its population is obese.
* Diabetes is also at an epidemic level. The national median for adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. This does not include cases of undiagnosed diabetes, which would increase this rate significantly.
America’s Health Rankings is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.
The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education, and the Census Bureau.
The report is reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector.
A key America’s Health Rankings data source – a telephone survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that accounts for seven of the 24 measures in the index – was changed this year to include cell phone-only households as well as a household-weighting process that better reflects increasing diversity within states.
As a result of the new techniques, the rates for the following seven measures cannot be compared to those for previous years: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, poor physical health days and poor mental health days.
America’s Health Rankings is the longest running report of its kind. For 23 years, the Rankings has provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings.
The Rankings employs a unique methodology, developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars.
Guided by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead to better health outcomes and healthier communities.
The Foundation also supports activities that expand access to quality health care services for those in challenging circumstances and partners with others to improve the well-being of communities.
After its establishment by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation, the Foundation has committed more than $200 million to improve health and health care.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers.
The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide.
UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group, a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.