Survey: Louisiana 48th among states in overall health

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NEW ORLEANS, La. (KNOE 8 News & United Health Foundation) - Rising rates of obesity and physical inactivity threaten Americans’ quality of life, even as Americans progressed in several key health metrics in 2014, according to the landmark 25th Anniversary Edition of America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.

Nationwide, obesity increased 7 percent from 27.6 percent to 29.4 percent of adults. Likewise, the percentage of adults who reported not participating in any physical activity in the last 30 days increased from 22.9 percent to 23.5 percent. At the same time, the number of Americans who smoke continued to decrease, declining by 3 percent this year, and has consistently declined over the past decade.

Louisiana’s Overall Health
According to the special 25th Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Louisiana ranks 48 this year when compared with other states. The 2014 report illustrates Louisiana has its share of strengths and challenges.

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities across the nation and in Louisiana UnitedHealthcare has several programs to address the nation’s health challenges at a state level. These programs help educate people on living healthier lives and empower communities to take action to improve their health.

One such program is the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Paths. To show its support for walking and fit communities, UnitedHealth Group made a three-year, $1.95 million commitment to support the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Paths program. The goal is to create 150 new, safe and accessible walking paths throughout the United States. The first New Orleans Walking Path officially opened in May 2012 across from New Orleans City Hall, and was followed by a second, residential path, located in Palmer Park in Uptown New Orleans, and a third path that opened in Lafayette Square in downtown New Orleans in April 2014.

Another program is “Heart Smart Sisters” which teams up UnitedHealthcare with clinics and community and faith-based organizations to offer classes to educate women about the causes of heart disease, the benefits of a healthy diet and the importance of regular exercise to help reduce their risk of developing the disease.

50-State Snapshot: Hawaii the Healthiest; Mississippi Least Healthy

Hawaii has again taken the title of healthiest state. Vermont came in second, followed by Massachusetts, which improved to third after being ranked fourth for two years. Connecticut came in fourth, rising three slots from last year. Utah came in fifth. Mississippi ranked 50th this year, preceded by Arkansas (49), Louisiana (48), Kentucky (47) and Oklahoma (46). West Virginia and Alabama moved out of the bottom five.

The special 25th anniversary America’s Health Rankings report finds Americans have made meaningful strides in health since 1990, particularly as it relates to life expectancy:
• At 78.8 years, Americans’ average life expectancy is at a record high.
• The past 25 years have seen considerable declines in:
o infant mortality, decreasing 41 percent
o cardiovascular death, decreasing 38 percent
o premature death, decreasing 20 percent
• U.S. cancer mortality rates have also shown a steady decline, dropping 8 percent between 1996 and 2014.

The decline in smoking rates stands out as a significant health improvement over the past 25 years. Since 1990, smoking rates have decreased 36 percent, from 29.5 percent to 19.0 percent of adults who smoke regularly. Cigarette smoking is still associated with one of every five deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country.

While Americans are living longer, the past 25 years have seen a steady rise in chronic conditions, many of them preventable, that compromise their quality of life.
• Obesity – now a leading contributor to death in the United States – more than doubled over the last 25 years, from 11.6 percent of adults in 1990 to 29.4 percent of adults today. One possible explanation for the increase: levels of physical inactivity remain high, with 23.5 percent of adults reporting no physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days.
• Adults who say they have diabetes currently stands at 9.6 percent, more than double the number from 20 years ago when America’s Health Rankings first started tracking diabetes.

“The challenge for the next 25 years is to achieve widespread, uniform success in fighting the chronic conditions that threaten Americans’ quality of life and adversely affect our nation’s health care system,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “Obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity rates are troublingly high. We must continue to promote positive health behaviors and help prevent the devastating consequences of chronic illnesses that are often left unchecked.”