United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings® Finds Americans Living Longer but Unnecessarily Sicker

  United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings® Finds Americans Living
  Longer but Unnecessarily Sicker

  *Advances in medicine can't offset Americans' unhealthy lifestyles
  *Vermont is the healthiest state for the 6^th year in a row
  *Nearly 28 percent of the population is obese and more than 26 percent get
    no exercise, resulting in increasing prevalence of diabetes and high blood
  *Where people live matters: significant differences define five healthiest
    and least healthy states
  *United Health Foundation announces funding for the Association of State
    and Territorial Health Officials to identify and share best practices
    among states

Business Wire

MINNETONKA, Minn. -- 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 troubling 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).

State rankings

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 49^th 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).

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

“As a nation, we’ve made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past
decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health,” said Reed
Tuckson, M.D., medical adviser, United Health Foundation, and executive vice
president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group. “We owe this
progress not only to medical breakthroughs, but to public health advocates who
are working tirelessly to advance wellness on the community level. But our
public health heroes cannot do it alone. Longer lives need not be sicker
lives, so we must all come together to do more to prevent the risk factors
within our personal control.”

“The America’s Health Rankings report is a call to action for individuals –
and the communities in which they live – to do something about the nation’s
health crisis now,” said Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the
American Public Health Association.

“The detailed information in the Rankings provides a roadmap for helping
America become healthier,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chairman, Partnership
for Prevention. “Even the healthiest states can identify areas for
improvement, while those with lower rankings can see what’s possible by
looking at where they stand.”

Sedentary behavior, diabetes, obesity, hypertension weigh on health, economy

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. These
statistics need to be understood in the context that even minimal action can
produce meaningful results, as evidenced by a recent study that showed that
moving from sedentary to mild activity increases life expectancy by 1.8 years
(PLOS Medicine, 2012).

Obesity continues to be at epidemic levels and is one of the fastest-growing
health challenges confronting our nation. The national median of obese adults
is 27.8 percent; that means more than 66 million adults are obese, more than
the entire population of the United Kingdom. In even the least obese state,
Colorado, more than 20 percent of the population is obese. The combination of
sedentary behavior and poor diet inevitably lead to increasing levels of
obesity, which contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and
other negative health outcomes. Additionally, the economic burden of obesity
is worrisome. By 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable
obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase to $66 billion per year,
and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580
billion annually, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's
Future 2012, a report released by Trust for America's Health and the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.

Diabetes is also at epidemic levels. The percentage of adults with diabetes is
as high as 12.0 percent in West Virginia, South Carolina and Mississippi. The
national median of adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. A 2010 report from the
UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization indicates that if these
rates are not reduced, diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for about 10
percent of total health care spending by 2020, at an annual cost of almost
$500 billion.

America’s Health Rankings also finds that 30.8 percent of adults nationwide
say they have elevated blood pressure, which is a primary risk factor for
cardiovascular disease. The prevalence of high blood pressure ranges from a
low of 22.9 percent of adults in Utah to a high of 40.1 percent in Alabama. A
recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that
39.4 percent of hypertensive adults are unaware of their high blood pressure,
indicating that the actual burden of hypertension might be even higher than
30.8 percent. The same CDC study found that 53.5 percent of adults who know
they have hypertension do not have their condition under control (MMWR, Sept.
12, 2012).

“High prevalence of sedentary behavior, obesity, diabetes and hypertension
means that a freight train of preventable chronic illnesses is going to crash
into our health care system unless we take action now,” said Dr. Tuckson.
“This trend is already affecting individuals’ lives and the system as a whole,
but it will be devastating if left unchecked. We – as citizens, public health
advocates, employers, employees, and family members – need to address
unhealthy behaviors today if we want to save our children from a lifetime of
needless pain and expense. As important as access to quality medical care is
to our health, the way too many people are living today is actually the
biggest risk to their health.”

Where you live matters: Least healthy states face significant challenges

This year’s Rankings saw stark differences between the five healthiest states
(Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota) and the five
least healthy states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia and
South Carolina). In comparing the top five and bottom five states, it is
evident that the least healthy states face formidable challenges related to
behavioral determinants of health and to socioeconomic factors that influence

While smoking rates in the five healthiest states range from 16.8 percent to
19.4 percent of the adult population, smoking rates are between 23.1 percent
and 28.6 percent in the five least healthy states. Likewise, 27.2 percent to
36.0 percent of the population leads sedentary lives in the five least healthy
states, compared to between 21.0 percent and 23.5 percent of the population in
the five healthiest states.

“We are encouraged that several states in or near the bottom have been able to
make progress,” said Dr. Tuckson. “Alabama and Oklahoma were among the states
that made important gains. Additionally, we are very encouraged by the intense
efforts to enhance health in Louisiana and Mississippi.”

The 2012 Rankings also illustrates the impact of a state’s economic climate on
its residents’ health. The five highest-ranked states report a higher median
household income ($51,862 to $65,880) than the five lowest-ranked states
($37,881 to $43,939). Rates of children in poverty, which range between 8.6
percent and 16.4 percent of residents in the five healthiest states, are
between 24.4 percent and 30.5 percent in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas,
West Virginia and South Carolina. Per-capita income and poverty affect the
ability of households to afford aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Healthier states also report a healthier job climate. Unemployment rates range
between 5.4 percent and 7.3 percent of the population in the top five ranked
states, compared with between 7.8 to 10.5 percent of residents in the bottom
five ranked states.

United Health Foundation calls for communities to act, provides tools to help
people make the right choices

United Health Foundation is launching the funding of a new learning
collaborative with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
that will identify states that have improved in key measures in the Rankings
and study best practices that contribute to their successes. These lessons
will then be shared with others in a continuous quality-improvement feedback
loop among the states.

In addition, United Health Foundation is providing funding tothe National
Business Coalition on Health (NBCH) to operate private sector-led health
engagement activities with multiple stakeholders and is continuing funding for
theDepartment of Health and Human Services' Million Hearts initiative.

“We are extremely encouraged by the Million Hearts initiative, which is
engaging partners from communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations,
federal agencies and the private-sector,” said Kate Rubin, president, United
Health Foundation. “Not only is its goal of preventing one million strokes and
heart attacks in five years laudable, but it also represents a model of
collaboration that should be reproduced as often as possible.”

Because individuals must be empowered and supported in making personally
appropriate and accountable health and wellness decisions, the United Health
Foundation has continued to enhance its website, americashealthrankings.org,
with a variety of tools aimed at empowering people to become advocates for
improved public health:

  *a resource library that compiles a list of websites and articles that
    offer information on actions people can take to address different health
  *a place to share proven or innovative programs that have made a
  *social sharing buttons to enable people to post stories via Facebook and
  *a live feed to the America’s Health Rankings launch event, which can be
    accessed at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2012/;
  *the report is available via e-book download, and the site has several new
    interactive maps to help people understand how health trends are changing
    over time.

About America’s Health Rankings^®

America’s Health Rankings^® 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

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside 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. The
report is reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with
members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the
private sector. A key America’s Health Rankings data source – a telephone
survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that accounts
for seven of the 24 measures in the index – was changed this year to include
cell phone-only households, as well as a household-weighting process that
better reflects increasing diversity within states. As a result of the new
techniques, the rates for the following seven measures cannot be compared to
previous years: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, sedentary lifestyle,
diabetes, poor physical health days and poor mental health days.

America’s Health Rankings^® is the longest-running report of its kind. For 23
years, the Rankings has provided an analysis of national health on a
state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of
health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health
benchmarks and state rankings. The Rankings employs a unique methodology,
developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading
public health scholars. For more information, visit

About United Health Foundation

Guided by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health
Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead to
better health outcomes and healthier communities. The Foundation also supports
activities that expand access to quality health care services for those in
challenging circumstances and partners with others to improve the well-being
of communities. After its establishment by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in
1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation, the Foundation has committed
more than $200 million to improve health and health care. For additional
information, please visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.

Twitter: @AHR_Rankings

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AmericasHealthRankings

Website: www.americashealthrankings.org


For UnitedHealth Group
Media Contacts:
Lauren Mihajlov, 952-936-3068
Jane Pennington, 952-945-7508
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