Vermont ranks as healthiest state in the country

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(Host) Vermont ranks at the top of the list in an annual survey of the nation’s healthiest states.

Despite the rankings, researchers say there’s still work to do.

VPR’s Todd Zwillich has this report from Washington.

(Zwillich) Every year a coalition of public health groups ranks the 50 states. And in 2007, Vermont was number one. It moved up after placing second to Minnesota last year.

The study scores states on infant mortality, smoking rates, and other health measures. But it also factors in health insurance rates, access to medical care, and crime rates.

John Clyburn is president of the Partnership for Prevention, an umbrella organization for public health and industry groups. He says in Vermont, immunization rates are high and infectious diseases are relatively low. That helps lead to a low rate of preventable-and expensive-hospital stays.

(Clyburn) "Preventing uneccessary hospitalizations clearly is a goal that everyone can understand and share."

(Zwillich) Vermont enjoys high rates of prenatal care, and 165 primary care doctors per 100,000 patients – among the highest in the nation.

Southern states, including Tennessee and Mississippi, ranked at the bottom. High obesity and high smoking rates were blamed.

Still, researchers warned Vermont has a ways to go on several important health measures. It ranks tenth in cancer deaths per capita and 37th on binge drinking. Again, John Clyburn.

(Clyburn) "Even the number-one ranked state in the country is not number one across the board.

(Zwillich) Scores for the nation as a whole were a disappointment for researchers. Taken together, the nation’s health score slipped three-tenths of a percent. Rising obesity and relatively poor infant mortality rates across the South contributed to the slide.

According to the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 38th in overall life expectancy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Todd Zwillich in Washington.

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