2018 Report Covers the Most and Least Healthy States in the US

Every year for the last 20 years, the United Health Foundation has published a report regarding the population’s health in each state of the United States. The United Health Foundation is a nonprofit division of UnitedHealth Group, which also owns the insurance company United Healthcare and Optum. The top five healthy states in the country are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Utah. The bottom five, least healthy states include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. If you are wondering what contributed to your state’s rank, keep on reading.

How the Report Works

In order to create the ranks for each state, the United Health Foundation uses 35 different health factors. They then examine those factors for every state. Each of these factors falls into a specific category. Those categories include the community and environment the people live in, behaviors people choose in their lifestyle, public policies on the state level, and clinical care the people receive. The health of each state depends on more than whether the people exercise or not. It also depends on their socio-economic status and the availability of healthcare because having a doctor helps people to stay healthy. 

Each state has areas where they perform well and each one has areas that need improvement. To get a better idea of the factors considered, we will take a look at the most healthy states, as well as the least healthy states. 

Most Healthy: Hawaii

Of the most healthy states, Hawaii takes the number one spot. Though they are considered the healthiest state in the US this year, they still have areas where they struggle. Let’s start with what they do well.

  • Only 23.8 percent of adults in Hawaii are obese, as compared to the national obesity rate of 31.3 percent.
  • A small percentage of the population—12.8 percent—smokes, as compared to 17.1 percent nationally.
  • With only 5.8 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter, Hawaii has low levels of air pollution when compared to the average 8.4 micrograms nationally.
  • There are 187.6 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people, and the national average is 156.7 per 100,000 people.

Here are the areas where Hawaii can improve.

  • In Hawaii, 21.1 percent of adults claim to be heavy drinkers, when the national average is 19 percent.
  • Doctors diagnose 21.4 cases of salmonella per 100,000 people when the national average is 16.7 cases per 100,000 people.
  • In Hawaii, 10.9 percent of adults are diabetic, as compared to the national average of 10.5 percent.
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Least Healthy: Louisiana

Even though Louisiana ranks the lowest of all the least healthy states, it is not at the bottom for every category. It ranks number 50 for both the behavior and environment categories, but it is number 47 in clinical care and number 48 in state policies. Granted, this is still not the best, but it still has bright spots. Here is what Louisiana does well.

  • They exceed the national average of 234.7 mental health providers per 100,000 people with 271.9 mental health providers.
  • Well over half of the females between 13 and 17 years of age—64.3 percent—were vaccinated for HPV, and the national average is 53.1 percent of teenage females.

Here is where Louisiana struggles.

  • They have a high prevalence of children in poverty at 28 percent when the national average is 18.4 percent.
  • In Louisiana, 23.1 percent of adults smoke, as compared to the national average of 17.1 percent.
  • The state obesity rate is sitting at 36.2 percent when the national average is 31.3 percent.

Most and Least Healthy States: You Still Choose

There are a lot of numbers to consider when looking at this report. Each state is different in where it exceeds and struggles, and that is the same nationally. Overall, child poverty has decreased throughout the nation. On the other hand, obesity and premature death rates have been on the rise. Do not think that your state’s ranking among the healthy states sets your health in stone. You can make lifestyle changes and take care of yourself so that your health improves.

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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