Top Five Healthiest States

December 15, 2011

Are the majority of patients in your state healthier or less healthy than patients in other states?

If you’re a physician practicing in Vermont, it’s likely the majority of patients in your state are healthier than patients in others.

That’s according to a recently released report which provides a state-by-state analysis of the nation’s health and the factors that affect it.

The report, dubbed America's Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities, ranks each state based on four “determinants” which predict the future health of the state’s population, such as community and environment, public and health policies, and quality and cost of clinical care.

The state rankings are also determined by 23 “outcome” measures, which note the current health of a state’s population, such as prevalence of diabetes, infant mortality rates, cardiovascular and cancer death rates, and availability of primary-care physicians.

This is the 22nd annual edition of the report put forth by the United Health Foundation, along with the American Public Health Association, and Partnership for Prevention.

[Note: If you click on the name of the states below, you’ll be able to see how “physician-friendly” each area is according to our annual Best States to Practice data.]

The Top Five:

1. Vermont
Ranked 20th in 1990, Vermont has steadily risen to the number one spot. According to the report, the state’s strengths include its low rate of infectious disease, high usage of early prenatal care, high per capita public health funding, low rate of uninsured, and high availability of primary-care physicians.

2. New Hampshire
In all 22 years the report has been released, The Granite State has never fallen below the 10th position. It has a low percentage of children in poverty, high usage of early prenatal care, and high immunization coverage.

3. Connecticut
Connecticut has moved up one spot since 2010. Its strengths are low prevalence of smoking and obesity, a low percentage of children in poverty, and high immunization coverage.

4. Hawaii
Like Connecticut, Hawaii also gained one spot this year. The state has a low rate of uninsured residents, high per capita public health funding, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations.

5. Massachusetts
Though Massachusetts is ranked in the top five, its position in the annual ranking is declining; since last year, it has dropped three spots. The state has a low rate of uninsured, a low prevalence of smoking, and a high availability of primary-care physicians. On the other hand, it has a high prevalence of binge drinking and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

The Bottom Five:

46. Alabama
Rounding out the bottom five, Alabama has a high prevalence of smoking, obesity, and diabetes.

47. Arkansas
Down one spot this year, Arkansas has a high incidence of infectious disease, high rates of cancer and cardiovascular deaths, and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

48. Oklahoma
Oklahoma dropped two spots since last year. It has a high prevalence of smoking and obesity, a limited number of primary-care physicians, and low usage of prenatal care.

49. Louisiana
The state, often ranked at the bottom, has a low high school graduation rate, a high percentage of children in poverty, a high rate of preventable hospitalizations, and a high prevalence of smoking.

50. Mississippi
Mississippi is no stranger to the bottom spot; in fact, it has been ranked 50th each year for the past decade. The state’s main drawbacks are its high prevalence of obesity, limited availability of primary-care physicians, and high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

The rankings are based on data from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education and Labor; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the American Medical Association; the Dartmouth Atlas Project; and the Trust for America’s Health.

Are you a physician practicing in one of the healthiest or least healthy states? We want to know, do the results match up to what you’re seeing?