Louisiana tied with Mississippi as least healthy state

Louisiana ranks 49th in overall health this year, up one spot from last year’s rankings, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings.

Vermont is ranked the healthiest state for the sixth year in a row.

Louisiana is tied with Mississippi for the 49th spot.

Americans are living longer due to several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to the rankings.

While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18 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 Louisiana and has several programs in place designed to address these needs, stated a news release. Programs educate U.S. and Louisiana 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 Louisiana,” said Dr. Penny S. Walker, senior medical director, UnitedHealthcare-Southeast Region. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”

According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Louisiana is 49th this year compared to 50th in 2011 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Louisiana has its share of strengths and challenges.

Louisiana’s strengths:

—Low prevalence of binge drinking.

—High immunization coverage.

Louisiana’s challenges:

—High prevalence of sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes.

—High percentage of children in poverty.

—High infant mortality rate, and high prevalence of low birth weight.

—High rate of preventable hospitalizations.

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).

Full rankings are available at www.americashealthrankings.org.

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