The United Health Foundation ranked Hawaii Tuesday as the second healthiest state in the nation behind Vermont.
Hawaii moved ahead of one other state this year from last year’s health ranking of third. In its 23rd year, the annual America’s Health Rankings is the longest running comparative health index of states. For overall health, Hawaii consistently ranks in the top five states each year.
"This year’s improved ranking is encouraging and reflects the efforts of Governor Abercrombie and the work of the department to improve the health of our state," said Health Director Loretta Fuddy. "The state has taken many positive steps in the last year, but chronic disease and obesity are still major growing concerns, especially when it comes to our children. We must turn the tide on these issues for our next generation."
The report noted that while Hawaii has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation, there are still roughly 234,000 obese adults in the state.
Also noted were an improvement in infant mortality from 7.6 to 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, and a decrease in preventable hospitalizations from 32.2 to 25.0 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.
While the prevalence of diabetes in Hawaii is below the national median at 8.4 percent, the state’s climbing rate reflects the troubling nationwide trend of increasing chronic disease. According to the report, roughly 90,000 adults in Hawaii are living with diabetes.
Additional areas of high concern for the state include the rate of health disparities among ethnicities and rural areas. This includes higher rates of tobacco use and obesity among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
"Because the measures used in the rankings reflect the condition of the 'average' resident, the report can mask serious health disparities within our island state," said Fuddy. "In Hawaii there are often startling differences between ethnic groups and rural areas of the state that should not be ignored."
"Hawaii's positive ranking is encouraging, but there are areas that will require our continued attention as we work collaboratively with our partners in the healthcare industry and the federal government toward the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act," said Beth Giesting, who was appointed by the governor as Hawaii's Healthcare Transformation Coordinator. "It is important that we identify what is working well, while zeroing in on where we can improve as a state. This will require Hawaii continuing to be a leader in shaping its healthcare future, as exhibited in October when the state proactively selected its healthcare benchmark benefits package."