RI Moves Up Ranks in National Health Study, Binge Drinking Cited as Challenge

R.I. Ranks 10th in Overall Health in 2012, up from 13th in last year’s rankings according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Ranking.

Americans are living longer thanks to several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Ranking.

  • R.I. Ranks 10th in Overall Health in 2012, up from 13th in last year’s rankings
  • Vermont is the healthiest state for the 6th year in a row; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last
  • Nationwide, nearly 28 percent of the population is obese and more than 26 percent get no exercise, resulting in increasing prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure

While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18.0 percent, 34.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, Americans are experiencing troubling levels of obesity (27.8 percent of the adult population), diabetes (9.5 percent of the adult population), high blood pressure (30.8 percent of the adult population) and sedentary behavior (26.2 percent of the adult population).

Rhode Island’s Bill of Health

According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Rhode Island is 10th this year, compared to 13th from 2011 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Rhode Island has its share of strengths and challenges.

Rhode Island’s Strengths

  • High immunization coverage
  • Ready availability of primary care physicians

Rhode Island’s Challenges

  • High prevalence of binge drinking
  • Many poor mental and physical health days per month
  • High rate of preventable hospitalizations

All 50 States: Vermont Still the Healthiest; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last.

For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least healthy states are South Carolina (46), West Virginia (47), Arkansas (48), and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot. States that showed the most substantial improvement in rankings include: New Jersey (nine slots), Maryland (five slots), and Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (three slots).

Nationwide: Improved survival rates offset by escalating rates of chronic illness.

This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved in several key areas, including:  

  • Premature Death declined 18.0 percent  in the last 23 years, from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 7,151 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 2012. Premature deaths, like several other metrics, have leveled off in the last decade compared to gains in the 1990s.
  • Cardiovascular Death declined 34.6 percent since 1990, from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 264.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues a relatively constant improvement of 2 percent to 3 percent each year
  • Cancer Death declined 7.6 percent from 197.5 deaths in 1990 to 182.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues to show a more rapid improvement in the last few years than earlier in the century.

However, while the Rankings show notable improvements in survival rates, the quality of these lives are threatened by epidemic rates of preventable chronic illness, including:  


  • Sedentary behavior, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, is at dangerous levels, affecting 26.2 percent of Americans. Rates of sedentary behavior are as high as 35.0 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
  • Obesity is at epidemic proportion. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even the thinnest state, Colorado, has one-fifth of its population obese.
  • Diabetes is also at epidemic proportion. The national median for adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. This does not include cases of undiagnosed diabetes, which would increase this rate significantly.

To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.

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