Mississippi Ranked as Unhealthiest State In the Country, but There’s Room for Improvement

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Photo by Finbarr O'Reilly
Photo by Finbarr O’Reilly

For the fifth year in a row, Hawaii has taken the No. 1 spot as America’s healthiest state, while Mississippi fell to the bottom of the list, according to a 2016 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report.

The paper, published earlier this month, examined the historical health trends of America and found that while the nation has made impressive progress in addressing long-standing health issues, there are new concerning health trends that need to be monitored.

For instance, the report indicated that America has been successful in reducing smoking among U.S. adults by a whopping 41 percent, and that in the past 10 years, preventable hospitalizations among insured Americans fell 35 percent. For uninsured Americans, that number also dropped 35 percent.

Despite these improvements, though, the report showed that rising rates of cardiovascular and drug-related deaths, coupled with a growing prevalence of obesity, have presented new health challenges in the nation.

For the first time in the 27 years America’s health rankings have been published, the rate of cardiovascular deaths increased from 250.8 per 100,000 population in 2015 to 251.7 in 2016. Moreover, the rate of drug-related deaths increased 4 percent, while the premature death rate (mortality before age 75) climbed from 6,997 to 7,054. Obesity among U.S. adults ballooned 157 percent.

“We have to remember that we have to put the fight for promoting health and prevent disease much higher on the agenda,” said Reed Tuckson, the external clinical adviser for United Health Foundation, the nonprofit that has sponsored the annual health report since 1990. “If we don’t, we as a nation will see further slippage and see those fearful trends of premature death, people dying from cardiovascular disease at higher rates than years before.”

When examined along state and regional lines, the 2016 report showed that states in the Northeast were among the healthiest compared to those in the Southeast, which had the greatest health challenges.

Hawaii came in at No. 1, boasting low percentages of uninsured residents and low rates of obesity. There was room for improvement, however, as the reported showed that the tiny island state ranked above average for excessive drinking. Massachusetts came in a close second to the Aloha State, followed by Connecticut, Minnesota and Vermont.

Meanwhile, Mississippi ranked worst in overall health, falling from 49th place to 50th in 2016. According to the report, it was the state that needed the most improvement, as there was a high prevalence of smoking, low birth weight(s) and a high percentage of children living in poverty. On the upside, Mississippi had a low prevalence of excessive drinking and low rates of drug-related deaths.

Kentucky, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana were also among the unhealthiest states in America.

“Our nation has experienced impressive public health achievements since the launch of the first America’s Health Rankings Annual Report in 1990,” the report read. “But this year’s findings highlight that the country still faces critical challenges that may undermine progress in other key areas of health. Those working to improve the health of our nation are encouraged to use the report as a call to action for positive change in their communities.”

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