POSTED: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 5:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 5:04pm
(NBC33) — Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s 2013 America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.
Nationwide, Americans improved in a majority of the measures captured by the Rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, physical activity and obesity.
Louisiana’s Overall Health:
According to the 24th Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Louisiana ranks 48 this year (it was 49 in 2012) when compared with other states. The 2013 report illustrates Louisiana has its share of strengths and challenges.
Small disparity in health status by educational attainment
High immunization coverage among adolescents
Low incidence of pertussis infections
High prevalence of physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes
High percentage of children in poverty
High infant mortality rate & high prevalence of low birth weight
Key Louisiana Challenges Addressed by UnitedHealthcare Programs
United Healthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities across the nation and in Louisiana United Healthcare has several programs in place designed to address the nation’s health challenges at a state level. These programs help educate people on living healthier lives and empower communities to take action to improve their health.
One such program is the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Paths. To show its support for walking and fit communities, UnitedHealth Group made a three-year, $1.95 million commitment to support the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Paths program.
The goal is to create 150 new, safe and accessible walking paths throughout the United States. The first New Orleans Walking Path officially opened in May 2012 across from New Orleans City Hall, and was followed by a second, residential path, located in Palmer Park in Uptown New Orleans. Plans for a third path are currently in discussion.
Another program is “Heart Smart Sisters” which teams up United Healthcare with clinics and community and faith-based organizations to offer classes to educate women about the causes of heart disease, the benefits of a healthy diet and the importance of regular exercise to help reduce their risk of developing the disease.
“Programs such as these help combat the high rate of physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes that unfortunately plague our city and state,” said Dr. Penny S. Walker, Sr. Medical Director for United Healthcare-Southeast Region.
Additionally, United Health Foundation provides a variety of tools to help communities and individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources on its website, www.americashealthrankings.org .
“United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings provides an invaluable look at the challenges and opportunities facing Louisiana and how the picture of health in our state compares with those of our region and our nation,” added Dr. Walker. “This report is an important tool for designing meaningful programs to address our biggest challenges and to help us measure the progress we’ve made in our efforts to date.”
50-State Snapshot: Hawaii the Healthiest; Mississippi Least Healthy
Hawaii has taken the title of healthiest state. Vermont, last year’s reported No. 1 state, is ranked second this year and has ranked among the top five states for the last decade. Minnesota is third, followed by Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mississippi ranks 50th this year, and Arkansas (49), Louisiana (48), Alabama (47) and West Virginia (46) complete the five least healthy states.
To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org .
Nationwide: Despite Progress, Significant Challenges Remain
Nationwide, notable gains in key behavioral measures included smoking, which dropped from 21.2 percent of the adult population to 19.6 percent. Seventeen states had significant drops in smoking, with the largest seen in Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas and Vermont.
Physical inactivity dropped from 26.2 percent of the adult population to 22.9 percent, and America’s obesity rate remained approximately the same as reported in 2012 (27.6 percent of the adult population in 2013 compared with 27.8 percent in 2012). This marks the first time since 1998 that obesity rates have not worsened.
When it comes to improving the nation’s health, there is still much to be done. Obesity has leveled off; however, it must remain a top priority. With the current rate of physical inactivity and the diabetes rate at 9.7 percent, there is still considerable room for improvement in these key health measures. The drop in smoking rates is encouraging, but the report shows nearly one in five adults still smoke.
“I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made this year and hope that the leveling off we see in America’s obesity rate is a sign of further improvement to come,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We should certainly celebrate these gains. They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices that will continue progress in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”
Nationwide: United Health Foundation Calls for Sustained Momentum
“United Health Foundation is committed to continuing to identify ways to improve health in states in measurable, meaningful ways,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “I hope we soon see the day when we are cheering year-over-year improvements in obesity, given its profound impact on our country, and I look forward to seeing our nation’s percentage of smokers continue to decline.”
The America’s Health Rankings report and its tools – including analysis not only of state populations but also sub-populations within states – are designed to identify health opportunities in communities as well as multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approaches to address those opportunities.
Through its programs and grants, United Health Foundation shines a spotlight on the health of America while promoting evidence-based solutions. As part of this commitment, United Health Foundation has partnered with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and with the National Business Coalition on Health to create learning laboratories that identify and promote best practices and innovations in public health.
To learn more about America’s Health Rankings – and to get information on how to help improve community health – visit www.americashealthrankings.org.