LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 11, 2012) – Kentucky health ranks 44th nationally in 2012. Americans are living longer due to medical advances, but poor behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings. .
• Vermont is the healthiest state for the 6th year in a row; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last
• Nationwide, nearly 28 percent of the population is obese and more than 26 percent get no exercise, resulting in increasing prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure
While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18.0 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 Kentucky and has several programs in place designed to address these needs. Programs educate U.S. and Kentucky 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 Kentucky,” said Jeffrey Beardmore, M.D., medical director, UnitedHealthcare of Kentucky. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”
Kentucky’s Bill of Health
According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Kentucky is 44th this year, unchanged from 2011 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Kentucky has its share of strengths and challenges.
• Low prevalence of binge drinking
• Low violent crime rate
• High immunization coverage
• High prevalence of smoking
• High rate of preventable hospitalizations
• High rate of cancer deaths
UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health concerns underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.
“While we celebrate the improvements our state has made in a variety of areas, we still have a long way to go to reverse the direction of many health trends,” said Dr. Beardmore. “The good news is that there are programs and initiatives underway in Kentucky that can benefit those looking to make positive, healthy changes to their way of life.”
• Smoking: With tobacco use as the number one modifiable risk factor in adult mortality in the United States, UnitedHealthcare strongly supports national and local initiatives encouraging tobacco use identification and cessation. Additionally, the United Health Foundation in 2011 awarded a three-year, $2.8 million grant to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to fund its “For Youth By Youth” program. The grant will recruit and train student anti-tobacco advocates in at least 20 states who will work with their peers to help achieve the goal of reducing the youth smoking rate from 20 percent to 15 percent by 2015.
• Diabetes and Obesity: This year’s Rankings identified that there are more than one million obese adults in Kentucky, and 362,000 adults have diabetes. But programs including the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance and UnitedHealth HEROES are helping steer Kentucky adults and children in a healthier direction.
As a result of UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to tipping the scales on diabetes, UnitedHealthcare of Kentucky offers proven programs from the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) to eligible members from its fully insured business and ASO employers that have opted into the programs. For eligible UnitedHealthcare members, the programs are available at no out-of-pocket cost to participants.
UnitedHealth HEROES is a service-learning, health literacy initiative designed to encourage young people, working with educators and youth leaders, to create and implement walking, running or hiking programs aimed at helping fight childhood obesity. Grants of up to $1,000 are awarded to youth-led programs in Kentucky that include both an activity element, in which kids count their steps, and a service component that increases awareness, provides direct service, enables advocacy on behalf of a cause, or features youth philanthropy around the issue of childhood obesity.
The 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.
Advocating healthier living in Kentucky
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 Kentucky. In particular, UnitedHealthcare acknowledges the efforts of Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) Division of Epidemiology and Planning. Humbaugh is well known throughout the KDPH and within the state and local health communities for not only doing his job exceptionally, but for the value he places on earning and maintaining the public trust while doing so. In 2012 alone, Humbaugh has been a key coordinator of state public health responses and a key spokesperson on issues ranging from outbreaks of TB and pertussis, a large-scale Salmonella outbreak caused by cantaloupe, a potential rabies exposure involving more than 200 individuals, the health response following destructive tornadoes in Eastern Kentucky, and many more.
Trained as a pediatrician, Humbaugh has worked in private practice, in addition to serving in academic and public health roles, dedicated to building healthy communities of healthy people across Kentucky.
Vermont still healthiest; Mississippi, Louisiana worst
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).
This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved in several key areas, including:
• Premature Death declined 18.0 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 of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people 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 35.0 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
• Obesity is at epidemic proportion. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even the thinnest state, Colorado, has one-fifth of its population obese.
• Diabetes is also at epidemic proportion. 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.
To see the rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.
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.