Utah ranks among the top 10 healthiest states in the nation, landing in the seventh spot for the second consecutive year, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report.
The state’s low smoking, binge drinking and cancer death rates helped keep it in the top 10, but Utah is still trending with national averages on diabetes and obesity, the Deseret News reported.
Twenty-three percent, or about 435,000, Utah residents are obese compared with the national average of 27.5 percent, according to the report.
“Our goal is to help Utahns become the healthiest people in the nation,” said Dr. David Patton, director of the Utah Department of Health. “To do that, we must drastically cut our obesity rate, which threatens overall health through diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other conditions.”
In a positive trend, Utah showed a 10 percent drop in the number of preventable hospitalizations among Medicare enrollees for conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, congestive heart failure and diabetes.
“(It) means our hospitals are sending people home with good self-care plans that the patients are following,” Patton said.
Utah fares well in several other areas as well, landing in the top three in eight of 23 measured categories, including infant mortality rates at third lowest in the nation.
In a negative trend, Utah fell from 30th in 2010 to 47th this year in childhood immunization rates.
And while Utah has the fifth lowest number of violent crimes, the state doesn’t do so well when compared with the rest of the nation for the number of occupational fatalities (30th), infectious disease (36th) and air pollution (22nd).
Left unchecked, the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes and children living in poverty will put a further strain on the nation’s health care system, said Reed Tuckson, a United Health Foundation board member.
“This year’s (report) sends a loud wake-up call that the burden of preventable chronic disease will continue to get worse unless we take urgent action,” he said.
Vermont remains the nation’s healthiest state, according to the report.
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