Vermont called healthiest state, Louisiana last

Wed Dec 3, 2008 4:57pm EST
 
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By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Louisiana has displaced Mississippi as the unhealthiest U.S. state and other Southern states were close rivals due to high obesity and smoking rates in new rankings that deemed Vermont the healthiest.

The overall health of Americans remained static for a fourth year, according to an annual report issued on Wednesday assessing a series of measures also including binge drinking, health insurance coverage, air pollution, infectious disease rates, crime levels and immunization coverage.

Many Southern states were clustered near the bottom of the rankings. The region has some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, as well as high rates of smoking, which causes cancer, lung disease, heart disease and other problems.

One in five Louisianians lacked health insurance, while 31 percent were obese. It also suffers from high child poverty, infant mortality, premature death rate and cancer deaths, according to the report.

"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.

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

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

 
<p>A Lower Ninth Ward resident removes belongings from his Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer before evacuating New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav, August 30, 2008. REUTERS/Lee Celano</p>