America is getting healthier—or, to put it another way, it's not getting any unhealthier. According to a major new report from the United Healthcare Foundation, physical inactivity is down, smoking is down and obesity levels are flattening out. Infant mortality is falling nationally. Fewer people are dying from cardiovascular disease and from cancer compared to two decades ago, when the foundation first made its research.
Within this national picture hides unending variation, however. States differ tremendously, and counties within states differ even more. As we saw with another set of health rankings—the County Health Rankings—counties in the same state can have the very best health numbers in the U.S., but also the worst.
According these state-wide rankings, Hawaii comes out on top, beating out Vermont, which enjoyed number one status last year. Vermont is in second, followed by Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. At the bottom comes Mississippi (50th), with Arkansas and Louisiana closely behind (the lowest nine states are all in the South).
The rankings are based on 27 sets of data across four "determinants" (everything from obesity and air pollution, to health insurance rates and access to a dentist) and one group of "outcomes" (e.g. diabetes and premature deaths). Most of the factors are weighted pretty equally, with the exception of smoking, which is given more weight (7.5% of the overall score).
The rankings' website offers a wealth of interactive information to play with. You can look up individual states, search by indicator, and compare data by demographics (e.g. education level). You can even generate state-by-state reports and build your own infographics. The United Healthcare Foundation has built the most comprehensive set of public health data available.