Georgia drops two slots, to 38th, in ranking of nation’s healthiest states

2/7/2014, 6 a.m.

Georgia lost ground in the 2013 America’s Health Rankings, dropping back to 38th among the 50 states.

It ranked 36th in 2012.

Hawaii is the healthiest state, replacing Vermont, which dropped to second this year and has ranked among the top five states for the past decade.

Mississippi ranks 50th, and Arkansas, 49, Louisiana, 48, Alabama 47, and West Virginia, 46, complete the five least healthy states.

Nationwide, Americans improved in a majority of the measures captured by the rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, physical activity and obesity.

The United Health Foundation, which released America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities last December, said Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health.

The 24th edition of the rankings spotlights Georgia’s strengths and challenges.

Among its strengths:

  • In the past year, binge drinking decreased from 16.6 percent of adults to 14.4 percent.
  • The high school graduation rate improved for the seventh consecutive year, rising from 60.8 percent of incoming ninth-graders who graduate in four years in 2006 to 69.9 percent today.
  • In the past year, the infant mortality rate decreased from 7.7 to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  • Among its challenges:
  • In Georgia, more than 2.1 million adults are obese and more than 720,000 adults have diabetes.
  • The percent of children in poverty increased from 20.4 percent in 2007 to 27.1 percent of people younger than 18 years, continuing an upward trend since the 2004 edition.
  • The percent of low birthweight infants, at 9.4 percent of births, has remained relatively constant for the past six years.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has used America’s Health Rankings to transform state health systems. It partnered with the March of Dimes and area hospitals to reduce rates of infant mortality, and Gov. Nathan Deal announced the Georgia SHAPE initiative that combines the efforts of state agencies, health providers, schools, sports teams, and philanthropic groups to reduce rates of obesity.

To reduce rates of tobacco use, the Department of Public Health is partnering with school districts across the state to adopt 100 percent tobacco-free schools. About 86 school districts have adopted the policy.

America’s Health Rankings, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis, is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

To see the full rankings, visit www.americashealthrankings.org.