Hawaii named healthiest state, Louisiana ranks last in new report

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 12/20/2018, 9:14 a.m.
As the new year approaches, many people focus on improving their health -- but how does where you live rank ...

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

(CNN) -- As the new year approaches, many people focus on improving their health -- but how does where you live rank when it comes to health?

Hawaii now ranks as the healthiest state in America, beating out Massachusetts to return to the top spot in a new report by the United Health Foundation, a nonprofit division of UnitedHealth Group, which also owns the insurance company United Healthcare and Optum.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah are the five healthiest states of the year, while the five least healthy are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and, coming in last, Louisiana, according to the annual America's Health Rankings report, released last week.

The report has been conducted annually for the past 29 years.

"A rank means that you overall are healthier than the states below you in the rank and are overall less healthy than the states above you in the rank," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare National Markets and a senior adviser to the America's Health Rankings report.

"The report provides a benchmark of how the health of each state's population has changed year over year, by comparison to other states, and insights into challenges and successes. The states that are in the top five on the list have areas where they could improve. The states that are in the bottom five have areas that they have done well," she said. "So every state has some areas where they're challenged and some areas where they have some really strong measures around their health."

Last year, the five healthiest states were the same but in different order: Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut. The least healthy last year were West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Previously, Hawaii had a five-year reign as healthiest state.

'Obesity has hit an all-time high'

To create the rankings, the report takes into account 35 health factors and examines them by state.

Those 35 measures fall into categories: "the behaviors that we are choosing in our lifestyle; the community and environment where we live; the public policy that happens at a state level; and the clinical care that we receive when we go to the doctor and the hospital ultimately influence the outcomes around our health," Randall said.

"A scientific advisory committee looks at each one of those measures and determines, based on scientific evidence, how much of an impact that measure has on the overall health of a population," she said. "Then, the states get a ranking for each individual measure, and then they get an overall ranking."

The data in the report also provided a snapshot of the nation's overall health, which Randall said revealed both concerning and encouraging trends.

"Starting with the thing that concerned us the most, obesity has hit an all-time high. The obesity rate in America for the adult population, for the first time in the history of producing this report, is up 5% in the past year. It hit 31.3% for 2018," Randall said.