The award for healthiest state goes to Vermont in 2019, marking the fifth time the Green Mountain State has taken the top spot in the 30-year span of America’s Health Rankings.
The New England states took 3 of the top 5 spots and 4 of the top 10, while last year’s winner, Hawaii, dropped to third and missed out on the title for only the second time in the last 8 years, according to the America’s Heath Rankings annual report.
Another rankings tradition lived on, however, as Mississippi and Louisiana continued their battle to be the state with the “greatest opportunity for improvement.” In 2019, Mississippi managed to take that dishonor away from Louisiana, which had finished 50th in 2018. The two states have occupied the 49th and 50th spots in the rankings for the last 5 years, with Mississippi ahead 3-2 on 50th-place finishes, based on data from the AHR website.
Alaska (2019 rank, 27th), Virginia (15th), and Wyoming (19th) made the largest improvements, each moving up five spots since 2018, while Maine dropped from 16th to 21st for the largest decline among the states. A look back to the original rankings from 1990 puts New York on top of the list of improvers with a +29 over 30 years and shows Kansas to be the largest decliner with a change of –21, the report said.
At the national level, the report noted some key long-term health improvements and challenges:
- Smoking among adults is down 45% since 1990.
- Infant mortality declined by 43% and decreased in all 50 states.
- Diabetes prevalence has risen by 166% in adults since 1996.
- Obesity has increased by 166% since 1990.
The model used by AHR ranks states using 35 measures of public health in five broad categories: behaviors (Utah, 1st; La., 50th), community and environment (N.H., 1st; La. 50th), policy (Mass., 1st; Tex., 50th), clinical care (Mass., 1st; Miss. 50th), and health outcomes (Hawaii, 1st; Ala., 50th). Health measures include rates of excessive drinking, occupational fatalities, uninsured, preventable hospitalizations, and infant mortality.
America’s Health Rankings are produced by the American Public Health Association and the private, not-for-profit United Health Foundation, which was founded by UnitedHealth Group, operator of UnitedHealthcare.