The health of Americans increased 1% this year, thanks to reductions in smoking, preventable hospitalizations and infectious disease, according to a health index sponsored by United Health Foundation (UHF).
But continued increases in obesity and children in poverty and a decline in Americans covered by health insurance largely offset healthy trends, according to UHF, a not-for-profit organization created by UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH).
The report, America’s Health Rankings, found 8.3% of American adults have diabetes. The percentage of adults who had been diagnosed with diabetes has risen 19% since 2005, according to the report, which UHF published jointly with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.
The rankings evaluate health, environmental and socio-economic data to establish national and state health levels. Data in the report came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, U.S. Department of Education, and the Census Bureau.
Vermont ranked as the healthiest state for the last four years, up from 17th in 1998. Massachusetts ranked second, up from third last year, followed in order by New Hampshire, Connecticut and Hawaii.
The study found obesity continued as one of the fastest-growing health problems in America, increasing 132% since 1990, from about 12% of the population to 27% in the 2010 study.
In the past year, smoking fell from 18.3% to 17.9% of U.S. adults, compared to a high of 29.5% in 1990. Utah, California, Massachusetts and Washington have smoking rates of less than 15%, UHF found.
The number of children in poverty increased from 17.4% in 2007 to 20.7% in 2010. UHF points out many of these children have limited access to health care and to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.