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Report: Americans not getting healthier, swap smoking for obesity Posted: January 4th, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Vermont is the nation's healthiest state. But overall, America isn't getting any healthier. Those are the conclusions of the United Health Foundation's 2011 America's Health Rankings.

The annual rankings found modest improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths. However, significant increases in the rates of obesity and diabetes wiped out such positive trends.

A nation of expanding waistlines

While the national debate on health care has centered on providing universal access to medical insurance, the 2011 rankings show America's biggest health concern may be something that can't be fixed by a trip to the doctor's office.

According to the rankings, 27.5 percent of adult Americans are now obese. That number represents a 137 percent increase from 1990. In 2011, for the first time, every state in the nation had at least one in five of its residents obese.

Rising obesity is linked with an increase in several chronic illnesses, including diabetes. The 2011 rankings found that 8.7 percent of adult Americans have been told they have diabetes, a rate that has doubled since 1996. Given current trends, somewhere between one in three and one in five Americans will have diabetes by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United Health Foundation states that the rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes means the nation fails to benefit from increases in smoking cessation. The number of smokers decreased 3.4 percent in the 2011 rankings to 17.3 percent of the adult population, the lowest rate in 22 years.

Nation's healthiest states

In addition to looking at overall statistics for the nation, the 2011 America's Health Rankings also provide a state-by-state view of health care. The rankings are based on 23 measures ranging from health insurance coverage to air pollution and cancer deaths. The top 10 healthiest states for 2011 were spread out across the nation:

  1. Vermont
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Connecticut
  4. Hawaii
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Minnesota
  7. Utah
  8. Maine
  9. Colorado
  10. Rhode Island

Mississippi was at the bottom of the list. The state scored last in seven of the measures used in the rankings. Louisiana and Oklahoma joined Mississippi in rounding out the bottom three.

The United Health Foundation conducted the 2011 America's Health Rankings. The foundation is part of UnitedHealth Group, which owns UnitedHealthcare and other health insurance plans.