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Longevity

Annual survey reports on the state of health care in America

 

Can you confidently say your home state is healthy? Are you practicing good health?

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, recently sat down to speak with Dr. Reed Tuckson, chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealthGroup.

Tuckson discussed data from the 2012 edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings, which is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

What the report found:

* Unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten the length and quality of life going forward

* Across the country, premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined by 18 percent, 35 percent and 8 percent, respectively, since 1990

* Americans are struggling with a rising health crisis due to extraordinary levels of obesity, diabetes and sedentary behavior 

“What we are finding across the country is that the prevalence of people smoking tobacco has probably leveled off,” Tuckson said. “That’s not particularly good news because we know there is still 21 percent of the American people smoking tobacco. What’s more frightening is 1,000 kids a day (are lighting up.)”

Tuckson said the report also found an increase in the incidence of diabetes – and the reason for the large measures is because society continues to increase the rate of obesity.

“In fact, there is no state in our country with less than 20 percent of its population obese,” Tuckson said. “That really is becoming more frightening, and what we do not see is, we’re not turning those statistics around. That bodes very poorly for diseases downstream.”

Tuckson said he believes people are becoming lazier.

“We’re literally lazy in that we are not taking the time to eat properly because of all the prevalence in fast food,” he said. “We don’t take the time to read the labels, and . . . we’re not taking the time to exercise. …Twenty-six percent of the American people are not getting any exercise outside of just going to work.”

Louisiana and Mississippi tied at No. 49 for the least healthy state, while the top five healthy states included Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

“It’s actually very interesting in terms of the states that have been making the biggest change, the biggest movement,” Tuckson said. “New Jersey has been moving up, which is terrific. Maryland moved up. Alabama moved up, which is important because obviously it’s in that poor socio-economic tier. Oklahoma moved up, and so again, states that aren’t as economically well-off as others – that shows it’s possible for states to actually get healthier.”

Tuckson added that while everyone is focusing on universal health care – and it is important to for Americans to have coverage – he feels that focusing on certain key risk factors, such as eating properly and exercising regularly, will inevitably lead to saving more lives and reducing costs.

“They are more important in terms of decreasing mortality than insurance, as important as insurance is,” Tuckson said. “ …If we’re going to be successful, the President has to do more, Congress has to do more – but we’ve got to do more in our communities, our families, our churches, our civic associations – and we’ve got to do better as individuals.”

The report’s data is compiled from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau.

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