New health report ranks Wisconsin 23rd in nation

The state of Wisconsin ranks 23rd nationally in the United Health Foundation’s newly released 2014 America’s Health Rankings, down three spots from 2013.

Among Wisconsin’s strengths are a high rate of high school graduation, a low prevalence of diabetes and a low prevalence of physical inactivity. Wisconsin’s challenges include a high prevalence of binge drinking, a high incidence of infectious disease and low per capita public health funding.

Highlights in the report for Wisconsin, include:

* In the past year, binge drinking decreased 11 percent from 25.2 percent to 22.5 percent of adults, moving the state’s rank in that category from 50th to 49th.
* In the last two years, pertussis (also known as whooping cough) increased more than 10 times from 10.3 to 120.5 cases per 100,000 population, the highest incidence in the nation.
* Since 1990, children in poverty increased 26 percent from 12.6 percent to 15.9 percent of children.
* In the past year, preventable hospitalizations decreased 8 percent from 55.0 to 50.6 per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
* Since 1990, infant mortality decreased 33 percent from 8.9 to 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.

According to the 2014 America’s Health Rankings, Hawaii was named the healthiest state, followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Utah. Mississippi was ranked 50th this year, preceded by Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Since 1990, the America’s Health Rankings report found Americans have made meaningful strides in health, including:

* At 78.8 years, Americans’ average life expectancy is at a record high.
* Infant mortality decreased 41 percent.
* Cardiovascular death is down 38 percent.
* Premature death decreased 20 percent.
* Smoking rates dropped 36 percent, from 29.5 percent to 19 percent of adults who smoke regularly.

While Americans are living longer, the past 25 years have seen a steady rise in chronic conditions, many of which are preventable.

* Obesity–now a leading contributor to death in the United States–more than doubled over the last 25 years, from 11.6 percent of adults in 1990 to 29.4 percent of adults today. One possible
explanation for the increase is that levels of physical inactivity remain high, with 23.5 percent of adults reporting no physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days.
* Adults who say they have diabetes currently stand at 9.6 percent, more than double the number from 20 years ago when America’s Health Rankings first started tracking diabetes.

“The challenge for the next 25 years is to achieve widespread, uniform success in fighting the chronic conditions that threaten Americans’ quality of life and adversely affect our nation’s health care system,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer and executive vice president of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “Obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity rates are troublingly high. We must continue to promote positive health behaviors and help prevent the devastating consequences of chronic illnesses that are often left unchecked.”

America’s Health Rankings employs a methodology developed and annually reviewed and overseen by a scientific advisory committee of leading public health scholars.

It is published by United Health Foundation in partnership with American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. For more information, visit

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