United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® Finds Pennsylvania Ranks 26th Compared with Overall Health of Other States
Americans are living longer because of several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings®.
While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18.0 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 Pennsylvania and has several programs in place designed to address these needs. Programs educate U.S. and Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania,” said Philip Benditt, M.D., medical director, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”
Pennsylvania’s Bill of Health
According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Pennsylvania is 26th this year, compared to 28th in 2011, when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Pennsylvania has its share of strengths and challenges.
- High school graduation rates are relatively high, with 80.5 percent of ninth graders finishing high school.
- In the last year, the rate of preventable hospitalizations has decreased from 72.0 to 69.6 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees
- Pennsylvania is in the top 10 of states with low percentages of uninsured people, although the percentage has risen from 8.3 to 10.9 in the past decade.
- In the past five years, public health funding per capita has decreased from $73 per person to $52 per person.
- Ranked at 47th in the nation, Pennsylvania has some of the worst air pollution in the country.
- The rate of cancer deaths in Pennsylvania is among the highest in the nation, ranked 27th with rates of 193.3 per 100,000 population.
- Compared to other states, Pennsylvania ranks 34th in infant mortality rate, with 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. The data also indicate that there is a significant disparity in infant mortality rates between white and African American populations.
UnitedHealthcare Programs Address Pennsylvania’s Health Needs
UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health concerns underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.
- In partnership with many cultural organizations in Pennsylvania and across the country, United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative awards more than $1.2 million each year to students from diverse cultural backgrounds to support their education in a medical field. The program aims to provide better care for minority populations by increasing the number of health professionals that understand the cultural and language barriers of those populations.
- The UnitedHealth HEROES program supplies community youth organizations with grant money to help them implement their ideas to combat childhood obesity and improve the health of their communities.
- Through a partnership with Comcast, UnitedHealthcare asked Philadelphia residents to participate in a study pioneering the concept of diabetes prevention through an at-home reality video series. At-home participants are encouraged to complete weekly health challenges and weigh in each week via a digital scale that uploads their data directly to the research center.
- UnitedHealthcare’s Baby Blocks is online interactive incentives program that helps pregnant women and new mothers get the care they need for themselves and their babies. The free program is available to UnitedHealthcare Medicaid beneficiaries, and rewards participants for taking steps to keep their babies healthy, such as attending prenatal doctors’ appointments, with incentives such as discount cards for clothing, teething rings and other items.
“We know that education works to help people get healthier,” said Dr. Benditt. “We’ve seen how the long-term efforts to educate people about the health risks of smoking have caused the number of smokers in Pennsylvania to drop over time. We can apply that same education strategy to other areas of health, but we have to find innovative new ways to reach people. We’re continuously developing new programs to help Pennsylvania residents address their unique health concerns, with special outreach to youth, minorities, expectant mothers, and adults struggling to reduce their risk of developing preventable diseases.”
Additionally, United Health Foundation is continuing to enhance its website, americashealthrankings.org, with a variety of tools to help individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources.
All 50 States: Vermont Still the Healthiest; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last.
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).
Nationwide: Improved survival rates offset by escalating rates of chronic illness.
This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved in several key areas, including:
- Premature Death declined 18.0 percent in the last 23 years, from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 7,151 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 2012. Premature deaths, like several other metrics, have leveled off in the last decade compared to gains in the 1990s.
- Cardiovascular Death declined 34.6 percent since 1990, from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 264.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues a relatively constant improvement of 2 percent to 3 percent each year.
- Cancer Death declined 7.6 percent from 197.5 deaths in 1990 to 182.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues to show a more rapid improvement in the last few years than earlier in the century.
However, while the Rankings show notable improvements in survival rates, the quality of these lives are threatened by epidemic rates of preventable chronic illness, including:
- Sedentary behavior, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, is at dangerous levels, affecting 26.2 percent of Americans. Rates of sedentary behavior are as high as 35.0 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
- Obesity is at epidemic proportion. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even the thinnest state, Colorado, has one-fifth of its population obese.
- Diabetes is also at epidemic proportion. The national median for adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. This does not include cases of undiagnosed diabetes, which would increase this rate significantly.
To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.