The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 30, 2012

W.Va.’s rank in overall health falls to 47th in nation

— The starches and sweets just consumed over the holidays aside, West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in overall health, down four spots from last year.

Playing into the United Health Foundation’s 2012 American’s Health Rankings are the public’s behaviors, environment, community and the policies and practices of the government and health care providers.

The study has found that premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths across the nation have declined since 1990 by 18 percent, 24.5 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.

National levels of obesity, 27.8 percent of adults, and diabetes, 9.5 percent of adults, are reaching epidemic proportions.

And few places have greater rates of obesity than West Virginia.

According to this year’s America’s Health Rankings, more than 476,000 adults, or 32.4 percent, in West Virginia are considered obese and the state ranks 48th in obesity.

The study lists West Virginia’s health challenges as a high prevalence of smoking; a high prevalence of sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes; and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

According to the study, 28.6 percent of West Virginians smoke, which is nearly the highest state percentage in the nation.

Sedentary behavior, not doing physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, affects 26.2 percent of Americans and 66 million adults, more than the entire population of the United Kingdom, are obese.

In West Virginia, around one of every three adults is inactive and one in eight individuals has diabetes, compared to one in every 11 nationally.

In addition, West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation for the percentage of children who are immunized between ages 35 months and 19 years. In this state 85.5 percent of children have been immunized.

The state also ranks 48th in percentage of the population with diabetes (12 percent) and ranks 49th in cancer deaths and premature deaths.

Also focusing on community and environment, the study shows West Virginia has 7.5 occupational fatalities per 100,000 workers (with a rank of 44) and with a rank of 44, West Virginia has 24.5 percent of children under the age of 18 living in poverty.

West Virginia’s strengths include a low prevalence of binge drinking (10.1 percent and second in the nation), high per capita public health funding (fourth in the nation) and low incidence of infectious disease (ninth in the nation).

Under West Virginia, Arkansas ranks 48th for overall health and Mississippi and Louisiana tie for 49th.

Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state for the sixth year in a row.

America’s Health Rankings is published by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnerships for Prevention.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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