Connecticut ranked 4th-healthiest state
Connecticut is the fourth-healthiest state in the nation, according to a national ranking system. But, while experts applauded the state on its status, some cautioned that parts of Connecticut -- including the poorer areas -- aren't quite as fit as the rest of the state.
Last week, a trio of health agencies released the 2010 America's Health Rankings report, an annual assessment of the nation's health on a state-by-state basis. The report is published jointly by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention. Vermont was ranked as the healthiest state in the nation, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut. Hawaii rounded out the top five. Mississippi was ranked as the least-healthy state.
This year's ranking represents a promotion over last year, when Connecticut ranked seventh. In 2008, however, it was named as the second-healthiest state in the country. Regardless, Connecticut Department of Public Health spokesman, William Gerrish, said this year's high ranking is "good news for Connecticut. The survey provides a good snapshot of how we're doing compared to other states. We've always been ranked relatively high. Getting up to fourth is a good thing."
The rankings assess states on such factors as prevalence of smoking, binge drinking, obesity, violent crime and deaths from various causes. Data for the rankings was obtained from a variety of sources.
Connecticut fared well in most areas. For instance, the state had the second-lowest prevalence of obesity, with only 21 percent of the population obese. Colorado was the lowest, with only 18.9 percent of its population obese.
The state also had the eighth-lowest smoking rate, with only 15.4 percent of the population smoking (down from 22.8 percent in 2000) and the second-highest immunization coverage rate of children aged 19 to 35 months. About 94 percent of Connecticut's children in that age group were immunized.
The rankings also showed that the rate of death from cardiovascular disease had dropped over the past five years, (from 290.2 deaths to 245.4 deaths per 100,000 people) and the rate of cancer deaths had fallen since 1990 (from 200.1 deaths to 187.7 per 100,000 people).
Connecticut didn't get a completely clean bill, however. The state ranked 40th in controlling binge drinking, with 17.8 percent of the population engaging in the harmful activity. It also ranked 37th in controlling infectious diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis, with 17.1 cases per 100,000 people. On the latter score, Gerrish said the state's poor ranking likely had a lot to do with the fact that Connecticut has a relatively high population of people at high risk for this group of illnesses.
Despite the flaws in Connecticut's profile, experts lauded the state's ascendancy in ranking. In an e-mail response to an inquiry from the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer William M. Jennings said the ranking reflects the "hard work among health providers, policy-makers and countless others."
Ron Bianchi, corporate senior vice president of St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, said the fourth-place ranking "means a lot of the things we've done in the state have paid off." He cited an increased emphasis on access to care, as well as increased attention to raising awareness about health topics (such as the importance of quitting smoking) as possible reasons for the raised ranking.
But Jennings said there's still progress to be made. "There are communities, and neighborhoods within communities, where health challenges exist due to economic and/or social barriers," he said in the e-mail.
Barbara Edinberg, director of research at the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, said though she's "certainly pleased that Connecticut as a state is doing well," she doubts that poorer, urban communities like Bridgeport are quite as healthy. "These statewide numbers always mask what's happening in the cities and poorer communities," she said.