The United Health Foundation recently released its 2014 report, America’s Health Ratings, ranking each of the states in a number of criteria that influence health such as obesity, smoking rates, binge drinking, percentage of children born in poverty, and obesity.
The study found Hawaii—which has consistently been among the top six states since the Minnesota-based not-for-profit organization began its rankings in 1990—to be the healthiest state. Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Utah rounded out the Top 5.
Mississippi was last at No. 50, preceded by Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma, which placed from 49 to 46 in that order.
Since 1990, the two states that have improved their health ranking most are New York and Vermont, which moved from Nos. 40 and 20 respectively in 1990 to Nos. 14 and 2.
Latinos had the highest rate among all ethnic groups of binge drinking, and higher than average rates of physical inactivity and obesity. Among all ethnic groups, Latinos had the lowest percentage of people qualifying as having a “high health status.”
“Obesity, physical inactivity and nutrition are, according to the CDC, battles that can be won,” Russ Bennet, a spokesman for UHF, told Fox News Latino via email. “By providing the Hispanic community with the information they need to properly navigate the healthcare system and increasing their knowledge about their health and the effects of lifestyle choices, the Hispanic community can work towards closing the gap with other ethnicities.”
It is the case that Hispanics are among the lowest ethnic group in drug-related deaths and significantly below the average in cancer and cardiovascular-related mortality rates.
But, Bennett cautioned, “Consider that Hispanics in general are traditionally lower users of medical services compared to the rest of the population, [so] it is possible that their access to these medications is much lower than other ethnic groups.”
And, he added, “It is important to note that last year cancer took over as the number one killer among Latinos over cardiovascular disease, so it is something that we should keep a watchful eye on.”
The rankings for the 10 states with the highest percentage of Latinos living in them were: Colorado, 8; New Jersey, 11; New York, 14; California, 17; Arizona, 29; Illinois, 30; Texas, 31; Florida, 32; New Mexico, 33; and Nevada, 39.
Overall, UHF found that Americans now live longer than they ever have before: 78.8 years. That ranks No. 34 in the world, trailing most of Western Europe, Canada and Australia.
In large part, the organization attributes the improvement in age expectancy to decreases over the last 25 years in infant mortality (41 percent), cardiovascular-related deaths (38) and cancer mortality (8 percent).
The study found that obesity has become among the leading contributors to mortality in the U.S. Nearly one-quarter (23.5 percent) of all Americans report not having exercised or been otherwise physically active in the last 30 days, a slight improvement from 2013, but a figure that “has not changed appreciably for the last 10 years,” according to the summary of the report.
The increase in obesity is related to a sharp hike in the incidence of diabetes in the U.S. The latest report found that 9.6 percent of Americans now report having some form of diabetes, more than double the rate in 1995, when UHF began tracking its incidence.
Bill Vourvoulias (@bvourvoulias) is an editor at Fox News Latino.
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