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News & Press: State

Wisconsin 20th healthiest state

Tuesday, December 20, 2016  
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December 15, Wisconsin Health News

Wisconsin ranks as the 20th healthiest state in the nation, up from last year when it was 24th, according to United Health Foundation's 2016 America's Health Ranking Annual Report. 

Wisconsin was one of three states to increase their ranking by four places or more. It ranked behind Minnesota and Iowa, which came in 4th and 17th respectively. But the state received a higher score than Illinois and Michigan, ranked 26th and 34th respectively.

Wisconsin had a high percentage of residents who have graduated from high school, which leads to better health outcomes, according to the report. It also had a lower uninsured rate and prevalence of diabetes compared to other states.

But Wisconsin had the second highest amount of binge drinking in the nation and a high incidence rate of whooping cough. And the state has some of the lowest per capita public health funding in the nation.

"Ranking the states in relativity to one another gives us an opportunity to look at where we can improve," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement.

In the past five years, drug deaths in Wisconsin have increased 23 percent from 11.4 to 14.0 deaths per 100,000. And in the last year, the number of children living in poverty has increased 13 percent from 16.2 percent to 18.3 percent.

Disparities in health status by education have decreased. Randall noted in the past, Wisconsin has had a greater disparity between the percentage of adults with a high school education reporting good or excllent health compared to those without a degree.

That disparity decreased 20 percent in the past year, from 32.2 percent to 25.8 percent.

"What we're seeing are some very favorable trends and some trends that are concerning us," Randall said. "That kind of puts us at a crossroads with our health in the United States."

She noted that nationwide the number of smokers has decreased and that the rate of uninsured Americans has hit the lowest level in history.

On the other hand, the obesity rate has increased by 157 percent since the first report in the 1990. And the 2016 report shows death rates from heart disease increasing for the first time in the report's 27-year history.

"One year is not enough to make a trend, but it's a very concerning change," she said. 

See Wisconsin's profile.