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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, November 5, 2007

We're number 9, health survey says

Massachusetts slipped to ninth place in national health rankings released today, down two spots from last year.

Compiled by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention, the report said the overall healthiness of all states has declined by 0.3 percent. The national standings have stagnated since 2000, the report said, after steady improvements from 1990, the survey's first year.

Vermont came in first, followed by Minnesota, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Connecticut in the top five. Mississippi ranks as the least healthy state, along with Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahomaand Tennessee in the bottom five.

In Massachusetts, both infectious disease and smoking rates declined. But more children were living in poverty and more people had no health insurance, the report said in its assessment of significant changes. The rating of insurance coverage was based on 2006 data, before Massachusetts' new healthcare law requiring near-universal coverage went into effect on July 1.

The rankings' 20 measures of health include obesity, tobacco use and violent crime as well as cancer and cardiovascular deaths.

Massachusetts scored well for its high levels of immunization coverage, low rates of obesity, and ready access to primary care, but the report said the state faces challenges with high prevalence of binge drinking, preventable hospitalizations and violent crime.

The percentage of children in poverty grew from 11.6 percent to 13.6 percent and the rate of uninsured people rose from 9.2 perent to 10.4 percent, according to the report. Infectious disease cases fell from 23.7 per 100,000 to 20.9 and the prevalence of smoking dropped from 18.1 percent to 17.8 precent.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 02:00 PM
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