Vermont is healthiest state in U.S. - report

BOSTON Wed Dec 7, 2011 6:21am EST

BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont retained its ranking as the healthiest U.S. state, topping the list for a fifth straight year thanks in part to a high rate of education and low incidence of infectious disease.

New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii and Massachusetts rounded out the rest of the top five healthiest states, according to United Health Foundation's 2011 America's Health Rankings.

New York, ranked 18th, and New Jersey, ranked 11th, showed the most substantial improvements over the last year, each moving up six spots largely because of gains made quitting smoking, the report said.

Mississippi was ranked the least healthy state. The report noted it had a high prevalence of obesity, high percentage of children living in poverty and a high infant mortality rate.

Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama made up the other bottom five states.

Idaho and Alaska showed the most downward movement over the last 12 months, it said.

The rankings, published online, have tracked the nation's health for the last two decades by evaluating 23 factors including smoking, binge drinking, diabetes, high school graduation, immunization, prenatal care and obesity.

The annual report is published jointly by the foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. It pulls data from sources including the Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to tracking results at the state level, the report compiles health trends nationwide.

The 2011 findings showed no progress in improving overall health this year after three years of gains.

Although there were modest overall decreases in smoking and preventable hospitalizations, major increases in obesity and diabetes were putting the population at risk, it said.

For every person who quit smoking in 2011, another person became obese, the report said. (Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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