Report Ranks Healthiest and
Least Healthy States

Obesity, Related Diseases Play Major Role in Rankings

Published in January Issue             

Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut rank as the five healthiest states, while West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi find themselves at the bottom in America's Health Rankings, a new 2017 report by United Health Foundation.

This is the first time Massachusetts landed in the top spot, ending the Aloha state’s five-year reign as the healthiest state. Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of uninsured at 2.7 percent of the population, a low prevalence of obesity and a high number of mental health providers.

Obesity and diabetes prevalence, smoking rates, childhood poverty, air pollution, cardiovascular and cancer deaths, physical inactivity, and the availability of healthcare providers were among the 35 measures used to determine the individual state rankings.

Obesity, once again, played a major factor in the health status of each state. Its prevalence increased in 34 states. The five least healthy states were among the highest in terms of obesity prevalence. In the past five years, the obesity rate increased the most in North Dakota, Illinois, Arkansas,
West Virginia and Tennessee. Kansas, however, saw a big drop, while obesity Virginia and the District of Columbia, had slight declines.

In the past five years, diabetes prevalence significantly increased in seven states, with the largest increases in Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia. Diabetes prevalence declined in the District of Columbia, South Dakota, Idaho, Alaska, Colorado and Kansas.

Heart Disease
In the past two years, the rate of cardiovascular deaths significantly increased in 21 states and significantly decreased only in California. In the past five years, Nevada and Utah experienced the largest increases in the cardiovascular death rate, while New York and West Virginia experienced the largest decreases.

Samer Mattar, MD

“If we’re going to have a healthier nation, each state must better address obesity,” said Samer Mattar, MD, President, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). “It is the source of so many of the nation’s ills.”

America’s premature death rate, the number of years of potential life lost before age 75, increased 3 percent since 2015, driven in large part by a 7 percent increase in drug deaths, its highest level ever, and a 2 percent increase in cardiovascular deaths. The United States now ranks 27th in terms of life expectancy compared to 35 countries.

“This report serves as an important tool for health care professionals, policymakers and communities in their collaborative efforts to address these challenges, and help build healthier communities across the nation,” said Rhonda Randall, DO, senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions, in a news release. “This is a call to action for each of us to make changes in our own lifestyles that can help improve our overall health and well-being.”