Tennessee Ranks 42nd Among All U.S. States In Overall Health

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s 2013 America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities. Nationwide, Americans improved in a majority of the measures captured by the Rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, physical activity and obesity. 

Tennessee’s Overall Health 

According to the 24th Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Tennessee ranks 42nd this year when compared with other states. This represents no change from last year when this year’s methodology is applied to 2012 state data. The 2013 report illustrates Tennessee has its share of strengths and challenges.  

Tennessee’s Strengths 
• Low prevalence of binge drinking (Rank: 3)
• Low incidence of pertussis infections (Rank: 5)

• High immunization coverage among children (Rank: 10) 

Tennessee’s Challenges 
• High prevalence of smoking: (Rank: 47)
• High violent crime rate: (Rank: 50)

• High prevalence of low birth weight (Rank: 41) and infant mortality (Rank: 47) 

A highlight of the report is that Tennesseans are becoming more active: the prevalence of physical inactivity in Tennessee decreased from 35.1 percent to 28.6 percent of adults; however, nearly 1.4 million Tennesseans remain physically inactive (Rank: 45), 31.1 percent of the adult population is obese (Rank: 40), and 11.9 percent of the adult population have been diagnosed with diabetes (Rank: 46). 

Key Tennessee Challenges Addressed by UnitedHealthcare Programs  

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities across the nation and in Tennessee. UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place designed to address the nation’s health challenges at a state level. These programs help educate people on living healthier lives and empower communities to take action to improve their health, officials said. 

For example, UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a lifestyle change program conducted in a group setting that helps Tennesseans at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent or delay the disease through healthy eating, increased activity and other positive lifestyle changes.  

“Even modest weight loss and positive changes in health habits can achieve measureable health benefits that, sustained over the long term, can lead to improved quality of life and lower overall healthcare costs,” said Dr. Paul D. Banick, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare MidSouth. 

UnitedHealthcare is also supporting Healthier Tennessee, an initiative of the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness created to improve the state’s health by: (1) increasing the number of Tennesseans who are active physically for at least 30 minutes five times a week; (2) encouraging people to eat a healthier diet; and (3) reducing the number of people who use tobacco. Earlier this year, UnitedHealthcare announced it is providing $600,000 in support of Healthier Tennessee and is working in partnership with other Healthier Tennessee coalition members to make a positive impact on the state’s health. 

Additionally, United Health Foundation provides a variety of tools to help communities and individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources on its website, www.americashealthrankings.org.  

UnitedHealthcare is also addressing the challenges that face the youngest Tennesseans and their moms with programs like Expect with Me, which provides an integrated approach to prenatal care in a group setting, and Baby Blocks, an interactive incentive program to encourage members to make and keep doctor appointments during their pregnancy and into the first 15 months of their baby’s life. 

“United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings provides an invaluable look at the challenges and opportunities facing Tennessee and how the picture of health in our state compares with those of our region and our nation,” said Dr. Banick. “This report is an important tool for designing meaningful programs to address our biggest challenges and to help us measure the progress we’ve made in our efforts to date.” 

50-State Snapshot

Hawaii has taken the title of healthiest state. Vermont, last year’s reported No. 1 state, is ranked second this year and has ranked among the top five states for the last decade. Minnesota is third, followed by Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mississippi ranks 50th this year, and Arkansas (49), Louisiana (48), Alabama (47) and West Virginia (46) complete the five least healthy states. To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.  

Nationwide: Despite Progress, Significant Challenges Remain
Nationwide, notable gains in key behavioral measures included smoking, which dropped from 21.2 percent of the adult population to 19.6 percent. Seventeen states had significant drops in smoking, with the largest seen in Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas and Vermont.  
Physical inactivity dropped from 26.2 percent of the adult population to 22.9 percent, and America’s obesity rate remained approximately the same as reported in 2012 (27.6 percent of the adult population in 2013 compared with 27.8 percent in 2012). This marks the first time since 1998 that obesity rates have not worsened. 

When it comes to improving the nation’s health, there is still much to be done. Obesity has leveled off; however, it must remain a top priority, said officials. With the current rate of physical inactivity and the diabetes rate at 9.7 percent, there is still considerable room for improvement in these key health measures. The drop in smoking rates is encouraging, but the report shows nearly one in five adults still smoke.  

“I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made this year and hope that the leveling off we see in America’s obesity rate is a sign of further improvement to come,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We should certainly celebrate these gains. They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices that will continue progress in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”  

Nationwide: United Health Foundation Calls for Sustained Momentum
“United Health Foundation is committed to continuing to identify ways to improve health in states in measurable, meaningful ways,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “I hope we soon see the day when we are cheering year-over-year improvements in obesity, given its profound impact on our country, and I look forward to seeing our nation’s percentage of smokers continue to decline.” 

The America’s Health Rankings report and its tools – including analysis not only of state populations but also sub-populations within states – are designed to identify health opportunities in communities as well as multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approaches to address those opportunities. Through its programs and grants, United Health Foundation shines a spotlight on the health of America while promoting evidence-based solutions. As part of this commitment, United Health Foundation has partnered with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and with the National Business Coalition on Health to create learning laboratories that identify and promote best practices and innovations in public health. To learn more about America’s Health Rankings – and to get information on how to help improve community health – visit www.americashealthrankings.org

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