United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Finds Tennessee Ranks 39th

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Americans are living longer due to several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings. 

While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18.0 percent, 34.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, Americans are experiencing levels of obesity (27.8 percent of the adult population), diabetes (9.5 percent of the adult population), high blood pressure (30.8 percent of the adult population) and sedentary behavior (26.2 percent of the adult population). 

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities nationwide and in Tennessee and has several programs in place designed to address these needs. Programs educate U.S. and Tennessee citizens on how to live healthy lives and empower individuals to advocate for public health improvement. 

“America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Tennessee,” said Janice Huckaby, M.D., medical director, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.” 

Tennessee’s Bill of Health 

According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Tennessee is 39th this year compared to 41st in 2011 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Tennessee has its share of strengths and challenges.  

Tennessee’s Strengths 

• Low prevalence of binge drinking – 1st/ 10 percent of adult population
• Moderate availability of primary care physicians – 20th/ 120.4 per 100,000 population

• Higher per-capita public health spending than most states – 21st /$83 per person 

Tennessee’s Challenges 
• High prevalence of sedentary lifestyle – 48th/ 35.1 percent of adult population 
• High prevalence of diabetes – 44th/11.2 percent of adult population
• High violent crime rate – 47th/613 offenses per 100,000 population

UnitedHealthcare Programs Address Tennessee’s Health Needs

UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health concerns underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.  

• Obesity: The prevalence of obesity among adults in Tennessee continues to be higher than the national median, with more than one in four adults obese and at increased risk for ill health. In Tennessee, more than 1.4 million adults are obese. The CDC estimates that roughly 50 percent of a person’s overall health stems from daily lifestyle choices. In Tennessee, UnitedHealthcare provides community grants through the HEROES program to encourage young people, working with educators, to create and implement hands-on programs to fight childhood obesity in their communities. In addition, through the Eat4-Health program created in partnership with the National 4-H Council, UnitedHealthcare is training youth ambassadors to make healthy choices for themselves and encourage friends, families and people in their communities to make positive changes through training, creative programs and educational events. 

United Health Foundation also continues to enhance its website, americashealthrankings.org, with a variety of tools to help individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources. 

All 50 States: Vermont Still the Healthiest; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last. 
For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least healthy states are South Carolina (46), West Virginia (47), Arkansas (48), and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot. States that showed the most substantial improvement in rankings include: New Jersey (nine slots), Maryland (five slots), and Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (three slots). 

Nationwide: Improved survival rates offset by escalating rates of chronic illness.
This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved in several key areas, including:  

• Premature Death declined 18.0 percent  in the last 23 years, from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 7,151 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 2012. Premature deaths, like several other metrics, have leveled off in the last decade compared to gains in the 1990s. 

• Cardiovascular Death declined 34.6 percent since 1990, from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 264.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues a relatively constant improvement of 2 percent to 3 percent each year. 

• Cancer Death declined 7.6 percent from 197.5 deaths in 1990 to 182.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues to show a more rapid improvement in the last few years than earlier in the century.

However, while the Rankings show notable improvements in survival rates, the quality of these lives are threatened by epidemic rates of preventable chronic illness, including:  

• Sedentary behavior, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, is at dangerous levels, affecting 26.2 percent of Americans. Rates of sedentary behavior are as high as 35.0 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.  

• Obesity is at epidemic proportion. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even the thinnest state, Colorado, has one-fifth of its population obese.

 • Diabetes is also at epidemic proportion. The national median for adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. This does not include cases of undiagnosed diabetes, which would increase this rate significantly. 

To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org

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