Minnesota is the nation's sixth-healthiest state, according to a comprehensive report released Tuesday by the United Health Foundation-a not-for-profit, private foundation established by Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, Inc.
Minnesota's ranking in the 2011 edition of "America's Health Rankings" was unchanged from last year.
The state's strengths, according to the report, are the low rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease, the low rate of the uninsured population, and the high rate of high school graduation; it ranked in the top three states for each of those measures. Challenges, meanwhile, were cited as a high incidence of infectious disease, low per capita public health funding, and a high prevalence of binge drinking-for which the state ranked 49th, 46th, and 44th, respectively.
The rankings offer a state-by-state snapshot of residents' health based on 23 measures related to behaviors, community and environmental factors, public and health policies, clinical care, and various outcomes affected by those determinants.
The report found that the percent of the adult population that smokes has decreased from 19.8 percent in 2001 to 14.9 percent today, but 599,000 Minnesotans still smoke-ranking the state eighth for that particular measure. The violent crime rate has also gone down during the past decade from 297 to 236 offenses per 100,000 people-ranking the state ninth for that category.
However, obesity and diabetes have both increased. While 17.4 percent of the state's adults were obese 10 years ago, 25.4 percent are in that group today-ranking the state 14th for that measure. Minnesota ranked fourth for diabetes; the portion of residents who have the disease has risen from 4.9 percent to 6.7 percent over the past decade.
For the fifth consecutive year, Vermont was named the nation's healthiest state-and rounding out the top five were New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Among Minnesota's neighbors, Wisconsin ranked 13th, North Dakota ranked 12th, Iowa ranked 17th, and South Dakota ranked 23rd.
States that showed the greatest year-over-year improvement were New York and New Jersey, both of which rose six spots, mostly because of improvements in smoking cessation. Meanwhile, Idaho and Alaska showed the most downward movement, dropping 10 spots and five spots, respectively.
The report found that the country's overall health did not improve between 2010 and 2011-somewhat surprising given the 0.5 percent average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010 and the 1.6 percent average annual rate of improvement seen in the 1990s.
For more information about Minnesota's ranking and health factors, click here. To see an overview of the nation's health, or to look up other state rankings, click here.