U.S. Residents’ Health Levels Off
U.S. residents overall are slightly healthier than they were last year, but the rate of improvement has leveled off since 2000, according to a report released on Tuesday by the UnitedHealth Foundation, the Washington Times reports.
The report has been released by the group every year since 1990. Findings are based on data from federal government agencies and the National Association of State Budget Officers (Lopes, Washington Times, 12/5). The foundation teamed with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention to produce the report.
The report rated each state based on 20 key measures of wellness, including rates of cancer, smoking, car accidents and high school graduation (Szabo, USA Today, 12/5). The report found that the nation's health has improved over the past 20 years but that "progress has slowed considerably in the past seven years," the Times reports.
Findings showed that U.S. residents' health improved 0.3% this year compared with last year. The nation's obesity rate has increased from 11.6% of the population in 1990 to 25% in 2005.
The report also found that 45 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes regularly and that tobacco-related illnesses led to 400,000 deaths last year. The number of adult smokers declined from 25% in 1997 to about 20% in 2005. In addition, the number of smokers younger than age 18 fell from 36% in 1997 to 23% in 2005 (Washington Times, 12/5).
The report also found that the number of uninsured U.S. residents increased from 13.4% in 1990 to 15.9% in 2005 (USA Today, 12/5).
A decrease in the incidence of infectious diseases and a slight increase in high school graduates contributed to the small improvement in overall health, the report found.
Minnesota is the nation's healthiest state, in part because of a low number of premature deaths and a low rate of uninsured residents, the study found. Minnesota has topped the foundation's report for 11 of 17 years.
The report ranked Louisiana as the least healthy state, citing a high obesity rate and a higher percentage of children living in poverty.
Archelle Georgiou, medical adviser to the UnitedHealth Foundation, said, "The health of the nation has leveled off, and we have not reached an ideal limit. There is room for improvement." Georgiou added, "The report's findings on obesity in this country are alarming" (Washington Times, 12/5).
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said his state has room for improvement, adding, "We are not living as healthy as we should, and we are dying too soon. There is nothing more worthy of a sustained national conversation than this" (USA Today, 12/5).