When you think of the healthiest states in the U.S., what comes to mind? Maybe you think of California where, if you believe the commercials, everyone is always running, swimming, and surfing. Or maybe you think of New York — after all, the state boasts one of the largest cities with plenty of talented doctors.
Neither one of those states, however, even made the top five on the United Health Foundation's 2017 list of America's healthiest states.
Instead, the top honor went to Massachusetts, with Hawaii, Vermont, Utah, and Connecticut following. New York didn't come in until number 10, and California ranked as number 17. That's because the report was looking at more than just how active the state is or how many doctors it has (and also, you have to remember that New York is a lot bigger than just New York City and not everyone in California is running around all the time).
Other factors that went into each state's ranking include things like: smoking, air pollution, how many people are uninsured, drug-related deaths, cancer deaths, STI rates, and infant mortality among others. The report also counted obesity among the health factors, although it's important to remember that a person's weight doesn't necessarily indicate their health.
Although it's the first year that Massachusetts claimed the top spot, it isn't too surprising that the state scored well. Massachusetts General Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best in the nation, and the state is home to several prestigious medical schools (including Tufts and Harvard). It also, according to this report, has one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents at only 2.7%.
In contrast, states like Mississippi, which ranked last, fail in almost every category — especially women's health. As of July, there was only one health clinic in Mississippi that would perform abortions. It should come as no surprise, then, that Mississippi ranked dead last in clinical care on this year's report.
It's obvious that some states would have better healthcare resources than others, of course, so why compare the states at all? According to the report, the authors make this comparison every year in order to set a benchmark. So that we can see how the health of people in the U.S. changes year to year, and where we need to focus more resources and research.
"We're spending more on health care [than other countries] and we die sooner," Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN. "We need to do a time out and figure out how to do this better."
Read on to see where your state ranked.