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Most and least healthy states in America

  • Most and least healthy states in America

    Americans have been subjected to an ever-changing landscape of health care in the United States, most notably fluctuating prescription costs, ballooning deductibles, confusing paperwork, and the striking down of the individual health care mandate. Meanwhile, the nation as a whole is facing a growing opioid epidemic made worse by the rise of fentanyl and its misuse. At the state level, many areas are facing rising populations of uninsured residents with decreased access to doctors as growing drug prices in states like Pennsylvania make health care increasingly unaffordable.

    In spite of so much bad news for health care in the United States, the picture is not all negative. Several states have served as shining examples of public health offerings with initiatives like health-focused events, educational workshops, programs targeting women and children, and environmentally conscious plans to combat air pollution. Others have stepped up their public health funding with packages intended to help residents quit smoking, address mental health distress, or even address excessive alcohol consumption.

    To determine which U.S. states are the most and least healthy, Stacker analyzed data from America's Health Rankings' 2019 Annual Report. This included 33 individual metrics of health for all 50 states, including the prevalence of major diseases, drug and alcohol misuse, immunization rates, health care availability, and more. Each state was then compared to the overall U.S. average and given a corresponding score. Stacker also pulled the most and least healthy trait from each state—these are the major of those 33 categories (metrics concerning at least 10 in 100,000 Americans) that had the greatest positive and negative difference compared to national averages. Where does your home state fall in the rankings?

    Read on to find out the most and least healthy states in America.

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  • #50. Mississippi

    - Cancer deaths: 226.8 per 100,000 people (Rank: #2 worst; 19.8% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 13.8% of adults (Rank: #3 best; 24.2% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 12.1 per 100,000 people (Rank: #7 best; 37.0% above national average)
    - Infant mortality: 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #1 worst; 48.3% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $85 per person (Rank: #22 worst; 2.3% below national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Violent crime (234 offenses per 100,000 people; Rank: #13 best; 38.6% below national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Salmonella (36.7 cases per 100,000 people; Rank: #1 worst; 119.8% above national average)

    Mississippi residents tend to rein in the excess, with less-than-average rates of excessive drinking and drug abuse. But the state is on the lower end of public health funds, which is not good news for an area with high levels of cardiovascular deaths and obesity.

  • #49. Louisiana

    - Cancer deaths: 214.5 per 100,000 people (Rank: #7 worst; 13.3% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 18.8% of adults (Rank: #17 worst; 3.3% below national average)
    - Drug deaths: 21.3 per 100,000 people (Rank: #20 worst; 10.9% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #5 worst; 29.3% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $89 per person (Rank: #25 best; 2.3% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Disparity in health status (18.3% point difference; Rank: #4 best; 33.7% below national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Salmonella (25.5 cases per 100,000 people; Rank: #5 worst; 52.7% above national average)

    Louisiana still suffers from unchanging poverty rates and a rise in heart concerns. Central Louisiana is particularly affected by poor health. Louisiana residents can find positives from the ample amount of mental health professionals and high immunization rates in the state.

  • #48. Arkansas

    - Cancer deaths: 217.7 per 100,000 people (Rank: #5 worst; 15.0% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 15.8% of adults (Rank: #10 best; 13.2% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 14.2 per 100,000 people (Rank: #14 best; 26.0% above national average)
    - Infant mortality: 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #3 worst; 39.7% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $108 per person (Rank: #17 best; 24.1% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Drug deaths
    - Least healthy trait: Violent crime (544 offenses per 100,000 people; Rank: #4 worst; 42.8% above national average)

    A high rate of adolescent immunizations keep Arkansas from the very bottom of this list, along with decreasing excessive drinking and poverty rates. Those in the state without access to quality health care can benefit from specific programs for women and children, prevention and healthy living programs, and addiction and disease management programs. But obesity is a growing concern in Arkansas: 37% of the adult population overweight, with increases in high school obesity levels every year since 2007.

  • #47. Alabama

    - Cancer deaths: 210.8 per 100,000 people (Rank: #9 worst; 11.4% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 13.8% of adults (Rank: #3 best; 24.2% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 16.1 per 100,000 people (Rank: #19 best; 16.1% above national average)
    - Infant mortality: 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #2 worst; 41.4% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $115 per person (Rank: #11 best; 32.2% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Public health funding
    - Least healthy trait: Mental health providers (100.7 per 100,000 people; Rank: #1 worst; 59.3% below national average)

    Obesity, heart problems, and mental health care are all challenges in Alabama. However, the air quality is increasing—the American Lung Association reported fewer bad ozone days in its 2018 report—and a comprehensive public health program offers free and low-cost health insurance to more families than most other states.

  • #46. Oklahoma

    - Cancer deaths: 219.2 per 100,000 people (Rank: #4 worst; 15.8% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 14% of adults (Rank: #5 best; 23.1% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 20.3 per 100,000 people (Rank: #23 worst; 5.7% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #4 worst; 31.0% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $89 per person (Rank: #25 best; 2.3% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Mental health providers (401.4 per 100,000 people; Rank: #7 best; 62.2% above national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Uninsured (14.2% of people; Rank: #2 worst; 61.4% above national average)

    One of Oklahoma's biggest challenges is a low rate of physical activity, which likely contributes to the rise in obesity—an increase of 17% in adults over the last six years. The state also has one of the largest counts of uninsured residents and a low tally of primary care physicians.

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  • #45. West Virginia

    - Cancer deaths: 224.9 per 100,000 people (Rank: #3 worst; 18.8% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 12.6% of adults (Rank: #2 best; 30.8% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 48.3 per 100,000 people (Rank: #1 worst; 151.6% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #11 worst; 24.1% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $140 per person (Rank: #8 best; 60.9% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Public health funding
    - Least healthy trait: Drug deaths

    West Virginians receive a large amount of public health funding, covering services like a rural hospital flex program, a transition plan for older youth, and cancer screenings. However, drug usage, obesity, and mental distress remain big challenges.

  • #44. Tennessee

    - Cancer deaths: 217.2 per 100,000 people (Rank: #6 worst; 14.7% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 15.7% of adults (Rank: #8 best; 13.7% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 24.3 per 100,000 people (Rank: #13 worst; 26.6% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #8 worst; 27.6% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $99 per person (Rank: #20 best; 13.8% above national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Public health funding
    - Least healthy trait: Violent crime (624 offenses per 100,000 people; Rank: #3 worst; 63.8% above national average)

    Although not the country's best in public health funding, Tennessee offers a wide variety of programs, from prescription drug overdose workshops to information about the human health impact of environmental pollution. But those likely won't solve violent crime, one of the biggest afflictions in the state, which according to FBI data, surpassed the national average in both 2016 and 2017.

  • #43. Kentucky

    - Cancer deaths: 233.4 per 100,000 people (Rank: #1 worst; 23.3% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 15.9% of adults (Rank: #11 best; 12.6% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 32.2 per 100,000 people (Rank: #5 worst; 67.7% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #15 worst; 13.8% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $87 per person (Rank: #24 worst; 0.0% below national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Violent crime (212 offenses per 100,000 people; Rank: #7 best; 44.4% below national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Drug deaths

    Diabetes, mental distress, and excessive drinking are all increasing at a relatively rapid rate in Kentucky. Luckily for residents, the Department of Health offers almost 150 public programs for those without access to health care, broken into three main categories: prevention, promotion, and protection.

  • #42. South Carolina

    - Cancer deaths: 201.7 per 100,000 people (Rank: #13 worst; 6.6% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 16.7% of adults (Rank: #16 best; 8.2% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 18 per 100,000 people (Rank: #23 best; 6.3% above national average)
    - Infant mortality: 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #13 worst; 15.5% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $80 per person (Rank: #18 worst; 8.0% below national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Air pollution (7.4 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter; Rank: #25 best; 11.9% below national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Salmonella (29.3 cases per 100,000 people; Rank: #3 worst; 75.4% above national average)

    Diabetes, premature death, and low immunizations plague South Carolinians. On-the-job fatalities are another issue, having increased nearly 40% over the past three years. A lack of air pollution is the state's most healthy trait, but air quality is also worsening here, according to data from the American Lung Association.

  • #41. Indiana

    - Cancer deaths: 209.5 per 100,000 people (Rank: #10 worst; 10.7% below national average)
    - Excessive drinking: 17.5% of adults (Rank: #22 best; 3.8% above national average)
    - Drug deaths: 23.7 per 100,000 people (Rank: #15 worst; 23.4% below national average)
    - Infant mortality: 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births (Rank: #8 worst; 27.6% below national average)
    - Public health funding: $53 per person (Rank: #4 worst; 39.1% below national average)
    - Most healthy trait: Salmonella (11.1 cases per 100,000 people; Rank: #7 best; 33.5% below national average)
    - Least healthy trait: Public health funding

    Indiana sits near the bottom of this list, but has had some major successes—poverty levels for children are decreasing and immunization rates are on the rise. Unfortunately though, the state provides very little public health funding outside of preventing infant mortality, increasing immunizations, and reducing obesity and smoking rates.

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