Vermont is the healthiest state in the nation, while Massachusetts ranks third and Rhode Island 10th, according to a report by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.
The 20th anniversary edition of “America’s Health Rankings,” released in November, focuses on public health concerns and identifies specific changes needed in treating chronic diseases such as diabetes and other preventable problems.
Specifically, the report identifies tobacco consumption and obesity as “the two priorities that threaten the health of the nation.” It notes that while the rate of tobacco use dropped from 19.8 percent last year to 18.3 percent this year, it still contributes to about 440,000 deaths per year.
Obesity, meanwhile, has increased nearly 130 percent since the first edition of the report 20 years ago, the authors noted. Currently, 27 percent of the population is obese.
“The United States currently spends more per capita than any other nation on health care, including $1.8 trillion in medical costs associated with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which can be linked to these national risk factors,” the authors note.
Looking at Rhode Island, the report identifies the state’s greatest strengths as the ready availability of primary care physicians – 169.6 per 100,000 residents, the third-best in the nation – and the relatively low prevalence of obesity – 22 percent, fourth-lowest in the nation.
Rhode Island’s worst problems, the report finds, are the high prevalence of binge drinking – 18 percent, which ranks the state at No. 42 – and the high rate of preventable hospitalizations – 78.5 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, or 35th in the nation.
The report also lists several “significant changes” in the state, including a 16 percent increase in the uninsured population, a 34 percent drop in the incidence of infectious diseases in the past five years, and a 36 percent increase in immunization coverage in the past 10 years.
In addition, the report notes that since 1990, smoking has decreased by 50 percent in the state.