America’s Health Rankings Annual Report: Americans Less Sedentary; Rising Drug Deaths, Obesity Pose Challenges

  • In 2015, Hawaii ranks No. 1 as healthiest state; Louisiana is
    least healthy
  • Decreases in smoking and sedentary behavior signal important
    health strides
  • Rising rates of drug deaths – including illegal and prescription
    drug abuse – diabetes, obesity and children in poverty threaten
    nation’s health
  • United Health Foundation to publish new reports in 2016 to offer
    more information to help improve public health

MINNETONKA, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Americans are making meaningful progress on key health metrics including
smoking less and leading less sedentary lifestyles, but rising rates of
drug deaths, obesity, diabetes and children in poverty signal serious
challenges, according to United Health Foundation’s 26th
America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report: A
Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities

United Health Foundation produces the America’s Health Rankings Annual
to provide actionable, data-driven insights that stakeholders
can use to effect change in a state or nationally.

Success, realized: less smoking and sedentary lifestyles

This year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report reveals
promising signs of progress:

  • Smoking rates decreased 5 percent in the last year alone, from 19 to
    18.1 percent of adults, and have declined 39 percent since 1990.
  • Rates of sedentary behavior, or adults who reported no physical
    activity in the last 30 days, declined 11 percent from 25.3 percent to
    22.6 percent of adults.
  • Preventable hospitalizations declined 8 percent, from 62.9 to 57.6
    discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Longer-term trends reveal cardiovascular deaths and infant mortality
    continue on a steady decline.

“This year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report
reveals many encouraging gains in our nation’s health while showing
clearly there is much more we as a country must do to maximize our
health potential,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical
adviser to United Health Foundation. “This report is a call to action to
make disease prevention a key component of our culture. We want to
ensure everybody – no matter what state they call home – is empowered to
make healthy decisions for themselves, their families and their

Amid successes, serious challenges remain: drug deaths, obesity,

Despite encouraging gains, this year’s report presents a sobering
reminder that there is still more work to be done.

  • Drug deaths – including deaths from illegal drug use and prescription
    drug abuse – jumped 4 percent over the last year, from 13 to 13.5
    deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Self-reported obesity continues to rise, affecting 29.6 percent, a
    2.5-fold increase since 1990 when just 11.6 percent of the population
    was obese.
  • Self-reported diabetes also is increasing, affecting 10 percent of the
    population on average.
  • Children living in poverty increased 6 percent, from 19.9 percent to
    21.1 percent of children under 18 years of age.
  • Improvements in premature death rates – or years of life lost before
    age 75 – has slowed considerably since the report’s inception 26 years
    ago – a stark reminder of the persistent challenges to the nation’s

“Too many Americans today are developing chronic illnesses due to their
lifestyle choices. The nation can and must work together to fight
obesity, diabetes and other serious chronic conditions, and to amplify
support for the nation’s most vulnerable populations through innovative
community-based programs and solutions,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O.,
senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of
UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions.

State rankings in 2015: Hawaii ranks No. 1; Louisiana least

Top Five: In 2015, Hawaii again takes the title of healthiest state for
the 4th time, followed by Vermont (2) and Massachusetts (3).
Minnesota and New Hampshire moved back into the top five this year,
ranking fourth and fifth, respectively.

Bottom Five: Louisiana ranked 50th this year, moving
Mississippi to 49th. Arkansas (48), West Virginia (47) and
Alabama (46) complete the list of the five least healthy states.

To see the national and state rankings in detail, visit

United Health Foundation to publish new reports in 2016 to provide
additional insights to stakeholders

In 2016, United Health Foundation will introduce a new suite of reports
and year-round information on key health behaviors, conditions and
populations to amplify stakeholders’ efforts as they work to effect
change across states and communities. This will include:

  • New reports on selected populations. America’s Health Rankings
    will expand its publication of reports on select populations. In
    addition to the America’s
    Health Rankings Annual Report
    and America’s
    Health Rankings Senior Report,
    America’s Health Rankings will
    issue new annual reports on the health of mothers and children, and
    the health of the nation’s veterans.
  • New spotlight reports on key public health topics. America’s
    Health Rankings will issue several “spotlight” reports over the course
    of the year focused on important markers of the nation’s health, such
    as substance abuse, prevention, healthy lifestyles and mental health.

About America’s Health Rankings Annual

America’s Health Rankings Annual Report is
the longest-running report of its kind. It is published by United Health
Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association.
For 26 years, the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report
has provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by
evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental
and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state
rankings. The America’s Health Rankings Annual Report
employs a unique methodology, developed and annually reviewed and
overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health
scholars. For more information, visit

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources such as
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical
Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education
and Census Bureau.

About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with
community partners, grants and outreach efforts, United Health
Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and
dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local
communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth
Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation
dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, United Health
Foundation has committed more than $285 million to programs and
communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at

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United Health Foundation
Ianthe Zabel, 952-936-1771
Pennington, 952-945-7508