Vermont is once again the healthiest state in the nation, according to the United Health Foundation’s newly released America’s Heath Rankings annual report. The state moved up three steps to reclaim the top spot in the Foundation’s 30th year documenting the nation’s health trends, challenges and opportunities.
For nearly two decades, Vermont has ranked among the top five healthiest states, as gauged by the Foundation’s review of 35 core measures, including health behaviors and outcomes, clinical care, policy impacts, as well as community, environmental and socio-economic factors.
“Vermont’s place at the top of this list reflects our commitment to health in all 251 communities and across provider networks from hospitals to home and community based providers,” said Governor Phil Scott. “While there is always room for improvement, our position as the healthiest in the nation speaks to the high quality of life we offer in Vermont. As we continue to work to grow the economy and our workforce, make Vermont more affordable and protect the most vulnerable, our health outcomes are a tool we can use to market Vermont as a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Governor Scott added.
Vermont’s data reflects a significant drop in health disparities – an improvement of 44 places among state rankings. Health disparities are an important indicator of differences that may occur by gender, race or ethnicity, education, income, disability, geographic location, and sexual orientation, among others. The state also had one of the lowest rates of violent crime.
“All of us can take great pride in where we stand today,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “I’m particularly pleased with the steady progress we have made in reducing the rate of adult obesity and smoking, increases in childhood immunization rates and physical activity, and in our significant gains in reducing health disparities among Vermonters.”
The report also focuses on the health challenges Vermont faces. Deaths related to drug and other substance misuse continue to rise, and the state continues to wrestle with higher rates of chronic conditions like diabetes, and risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis.
Dr. Levine said the data is also important in showing where more work is needed. “We are number one overall, but in some measures, relative to other states, we may only be doing less badly,” said Dr. Levine. “Bending the curve on unhealthy behaviors and outcomes is difficult, and we have a great deal more work to do.” Levine cited the rapid rise of vaping among young people as a threat to decades of progress against tobacco use, and the need to further impact increases in chronic diseases and cancer-related deaths.
“We will look deeply into this data, to continue our strategic plans and programmatic efforts to build on our successes and to reverse the trends that negatively impact the health and well-being of all Vermonters,” Levine added.
America’s Health Rankings 2019 Annual Report: americashealthrankings.org