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Hawaii climbs to second among healthiest states


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POSTED: Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hawaii climbed to second from third as one of the healthiest states in the nation, according to an annual report.

               

     

 

 

Factors increasing isle health

        Some elements that led to Hawaii's ranking as the second healthiest state by the United Health Foundation.

       

Strengths:

       

» Low rate of uninsured population

       

» Low rate of preventable hospitalizations

       

» Low levels of air pollution

       

» Strong per capita public health funding

       

» Low rates of cancer deaths and cardiovascular deaths

       

Significant changes:

       

» Infectious disease, in cases per 100,000 population, decreased to 15.6 from 21.5 in 2007, a 27-percent drop.

       

» Immunization coverage for young children increased to 87.8 percent from 80.1 percent last year, a relative 10 percent rise.

       

» A smoking rate of 17 percent is down from 27.6 percent in 1990, a relative 38 percent drop.

       

» The poverty rate among children dropped by a relative 44 percent since 1990.

       

  Source: United Health Foundation

       

       

Hawaii was second to Vermont, which was ranked the healthiest state in the nation for the second year in the row, according to the report, "2008 America's Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities," conducted by the United Health Foundation. Louisiana was ranked as the least healthy state.

Hawaii ranked third in last year's report, behind Vermont and Minnesota, and 10th in 2003.

Some of the factors that pushed Hawaii to the second spot were a drop in the incidence of infectious disease from 21.5 to 15.6 cases per 100,000 population in the past year and an increase in immunization coverage for children between 19 months and 35 months to 87.8 percent from 80.1 percent.

The report also indicated a drop in the prevalence of smoking from 27.6 percent to 17 percent since 1990. Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the state Department of Health, said the multimillion-dollar tobacco settlement used toward tobacco cessation services and programs is a main factor in the decrease. People are more informed about the dangerous effects of smoking, said Fukino. "The social norm of smoking has shifted."

The report also indicated a decline in the percentage of children in poverty since 1990 from 20.7 percent to 11.6 percent.

One of the challenges stated in the report that Hawaii faces is a high prevalence of binge drinking at 18.1 percent of the population. "We need to remain focused on this," said Fukino.

When teens reach 18, some consider drinking a rite of passage. "The next broader social norm change that we need to look at is around alcohol use," she said.

While the obesity rate in the state is low at 21.7 percent of the population, Fukino said the issue remains a concern, especially with Hawaii's high rate of diabetes.

Other factors contributing to Hawaii's high rank were its low rate of preventable hospitalization; low death rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease; the state's air quality; and the low rate of residents without health insurance.