December 5, 2008

Most Unhealthy State: Louisiana

High obesity and smoking rates have moved Louisiana to the top of a U.S. list, marking it the unhealthiest state.

According to an annual report, the overall health of Americans remained static for a fourth year. Topics studied included binge drinking, health insurance coverage, air pollution, infectious disease rates, crime levels and immunization coverage.

"We've just not made any improvement in the overall healthiness of the nation," said Dr. Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, and the private United Health Foundation.

The foundation, American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention advocacy group put together the 19th annual state-by-state rankings.

Many Southern states were clustered near the bottom of the rankings because the region has some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Twenty percent of Louisiana residents lacked health insurance, while 31 percent were obese. The state suffers from high child poverty, infant mortality, premature death rate and cancer deaths, according to the report.

Vermont topped the rankings for the second year, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.

Vermont had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average. It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.

Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.

President-elect Barack Obama said he wants to change U.S. health care. Currently, 45.7 million people are without coverage while costing more than any other national health system.

The United States lags behind wealthy nations in the categories of infant mortality, life expectancy, mortality for treatable conditions and overall health care system performance.


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