Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Rankings Report Says No Improvement in Americans' Health

By Dena Bunis, CQ HealthBeat Managing Editor

December 6, 2011 -- The nation’s health status did not improve in 2011, and it’s because increases in obesity, diabetes, and the number of children in poverty offset improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths, according to the United Health Foundation’s 2011 America’s Health Rankings.

Over the past decade the rankings report a slight—.5 percent—uptick in the nation’s health, already down from the 1.6 percent average annual rate of improvement in the 1990s.

The annual rankings are based on 23 health measures. There were some positive trends: 178.3 percent of the population smoked in 2011, down from 17.9 percent in 2010; there were 68.2 preventable hospitalization per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, down from 70.6 the year before, and in 2011 cardiovascular deaths numbered 270.4 per 100,000 people in the U.S., down from 278.2 the year before.

But those positive measures were offset, the study authors said, by some troubling increases. In 2011, 27.5 percent of the adult population was obese, up from 26.9 percent in 2010; the rate of diabetes went from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2011, and the percentage of children in poverty went from 20.7 percent in 2010 to 21.5 percent in 2011.

At a time when the nation, states and individual families are grappling with tightening budgets and growing health care expenses, this year's Rankings sends a loud wake up all that the burden of preventable chronic disease will continue to get worse unless we take urgent action," Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, said in a statement.

The rankings provide a state-by-state look at the nation’s health. For the fifth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Mississippi is the nation’s unhealthiest. States that showed the most substantial improvement include New York and New Jersey, both of which moved up largely as a result of aggressive smoking cessation programs. Idaho and Alaska showed the most downward movements. Idaho dropped 10 spots to 19 in the rankings, and Alaska dropped five places.

Health Rankings

Publication Details