New Hampshire ranked third for health

New Hampshire is one of the top three healthiest states in the country, a health research study has found.

The United Health Foundation, in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, ranked the states in its annual study, “America’s Health Rankings.” New Hampshire finished behind first-ranked Minnesota and second-ranked Vermont. Hawaii and Connecticut round out the top five healthiest states.

America’s least healthy states were Louisiana, 50th, Mississippi, 49th, South Carolina, 48th, Tennessee, 47th, and Arkansas, 46th.

The study combines 18 health measures, such as smoking, preventable disease, high school graduation rates and even the number of children in poverty, to arrive at a comprehensive score for the entire nation as well as the individual states.

The study also takes into account the environment in which people live and work, the decisions made by public and elected officials, and the quality of medical care delivered by health professionals.

For measures contributing to New Hampshire’s score, the study points to the state’s low percentage of children in poverty, ranking it at the top of all 50 states for the smallest number of children under 18 living in poverty.

New Hampshire also ranked first in the nation with ready access to prenatal care, although the study did note a disparity between white women who received care (92 percent) and black women (81 percent).

Other strengths for the state were: a low premature death rate; low violent crime rate; and a low rate of uninsured.

A high incidence of smoking was singled out as a challenge for the Granite State, which the study said was about 20 percent of the state’s population, placing New Hampshire at 22 among the 50 states for this measure.

The state’s childhood immunization rate was termed “moderate,” with 82.8 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months immunized, ranking the state at 22.

The study reported significant positive changes over the past year in the reduction of violent crime, down 21 percent; the number of children in poverty decreased by 26 percent; and the incidence of infectious disease decreased from 18.3 cases per 100,000 in 1990 to just 9.5 cases — a drop of nearly 50 percent.

The study also found that the state has experienced a 108 percent increase in the prevalence of obesity since 1990.

For first time in the report’s 17-year history, it has released state-specific data on the quality of care vs. cost from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, compiled by researchers at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

This measure of the “America’s Health Rankings” found that the cost of care and the quality of care received vary widely from state to state.

The researchers found that more care is not necessarily better care. In fact, the study reports, “in some states, the greater use of services is associated with poorer quality and lower satisfaction with care.”

The study said New Hampshire’s cost of clinical care was “moderate compared to other states and the quality of care is high.”

Nationally, Americans are about 0.3 percent healthier than last year, according to the study. The country as a whole improved on reducing the incidents of several key factors, including cardiovascular deaths, motor vehicular deaths, infectious diseases and violent crime.

Researchers also found that the United States continues to lag behind other countries in certain measures like healthy life expectancy and infant mortality.

The study also found that the number of uninsured Americans increased from 13.4 percent in 1990 to 15.9 percent in 2006.

To view the entire report, visit — CINDY KIBBE

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