Home » Study: Kentucky ranks 45th among all U.S. states in overall health

Study: Kentucky ranks 45th among all U.S. states in overall health

United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings released

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Dec. 11, 2013) – Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s 2013 America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.

(Photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com)
(Photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com)

Nationwide, Americans improved in a majority of the measures captured by the Rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, physical activity and obesity. Kentucky, however, did not fare so well.

Kentucky ranks 45th this year when compared with other states, according to the 2013 edition of America’s Health Rankings. The 2013 report illustrates Kentucky has its share of strengths and challenges.

Kentucky strengths

♦ Low prevalence of infectious disease (chlamydia, pertussis and salmonella; ranked 10th nationally)

♦ Low violent crime rate (ranked 8th)

♦ Low prevalence of binge drinking (ranked 12th)

Kentucky challenges

♦ High number of smokers (ranked 50th; 28.3 percent of adult population)

♦ Cancer deaths (ranked 50th)

♦ Poor physical health days (ranked 50th)

♦ Preventable hospitalizations (ranked 49th)

♦ Poor mental health days (ranked 49th)

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities across the nation and in Kentucky. UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place designed to address the nation’s health challenges at a state level. These programs help educate people on living healthier lives and empower communities to take action to improve their health.

“United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings provides an invaluable look at the challenges and opportunities facing Kentucky and how the picture of health in our state compares with those of our region and our nation,” said Guy Shrake, MD, MPH, UnitedHealthcare’s market medical director for Kentucky. “This report is an important tool for designing meaningful programs to address our biggest challenges and to help us measure the progress we’ve made in our efforts to date.”

United Health Foundation provides a variety of tools to help communities and individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources on its website, www.americashealthrankings.org.

Nationwide: Hawaii the healthiest, Mississippi least healthy

Hawaii has taken the title of healthiest state. Vermont, last year’s reported No. 1 state, is ranked second this year and has ranked among the top five states for the last decade. Minnesota is third, followed by Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mississippi ranks 50th this year, and Arkansas (49), Louisiana (48), Alabama (47) and West Virginia (46) complete the five least healthy states.

Nationwide, notable gains in key behavioral measures included smoking, which dropped from 21.2 percent of the adult population to 19.6 percent. Seventeen states had significant drops in smoking, with the largest seen in Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas and Vermont.

Physical inactivity dropped from 26.2 percent of the adult population to 22.9 percent, and America’s obesity rate remained approximately the same as reported in 2012 (27.6 percent of the adult population in 2013 compared with 27.8 percent in 2012). This marks the first time since 1998 that obesity rates have not worsened.

When it comes to improving the nation’s health, there is still much to be done. Obesity has leveled off; however, it must remain a top priority. With the current rate of physical inactivity and the diabetes rate at 9.7 percent, there is still considerable room for improvement in these key health measures. The drop in smoking rates is encouraging, but the report shows nearly one in five adults still smoke.

“I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made this year and hope that the leveling off we see in America’s obesity rate is a sign of further improvement to come,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We should certainly celebrate these gains. They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices that will continue progress in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”

“United Health Foundation is committed to continuing to identify ways to improve health in states in measurable, meaningful ways,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “I hope we soon see the day when we are cheering year-over-year improvements in obesity, given its profound impact on our country, and I look forward to seeing our nation’s percentage of smokers continue to decline.”

The America’s Health Rankings report and its tools – including analysis not only of state populations but also sub-populations within states – are designed to identify health opportunities in communities as well as multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approaches to address those opportunities. Through its programs and grants, United Health Foundation shines a spotlight on the health of America while promoting evidence-based solutions. As part of this commitment, United Health Foundation has partnered with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and with the National Business Coalition on Health to create learning laboratories that identify and promote best practices and innovations in public health.

To learn more about America’s Health Rankings – and to get information on how to help improve community health – visit americashealthrankings.org.