Minnesota has been named the healthiest state, for the fourth consecutive year, in the United Health Foundation's annual report. Each state was ranked on 20 key measures of wellness, from cancer to car accidents.
Minnesota's score is 21 percent higher than the national average, has the country's lowest uninsured rate (8.4 percent), and has low infant mortality and child poverty rates.
State Governor Tim Pawlenty credited a state health insurance program for the working poor, social safety-net programs for children, the state's health-conscious culture and a low unemployment rate.
Louisiana, with high rates of obesity, child poverty, infant mortality and overall premature death, ranked as the unhealthiest state. Overall, the nation's health is not improving, and the country is no healthier today than it was in 2000. Several key problems are responsible, including obesity, tobacco use and the large number of uninsured.
The number of uninsured Americans has increased from 13.4 percent to 15.9 percent since 2000, and in a list of 36 nations, the United States shares last place for infant mortality rates with countries such as Cuba and Croatia.
Beating the annual list of fattest cities in the nation from Men's Fitness by a few weeks is the 17th annual report of <st1:country-region>America</st1:country-region>'s Health Rankings issued by the United Health Foundation.
The unhealthiest states -- Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina -- may not surprise you very much, as there is high unemployment in these states and obesity and poverty often travel together. The three healthiest states might defy your expectations, however. All three -- Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire -- certainly dispel any excuses you might raise about blaming colder climates for your poor health.
However, my favorite vacation spot, Hawaii, has the longest lived people in the United States. They typically live to be over 80, which is three years longer than people on the U.S. mainland. Aside from the more relaxed pace I believe it has lots to do with plentiful sunshine. It certainly isn't their diet, as many natives consume foods that are far from healthy.
You may feel a little better knowing America's overall health has improved some 19 percent since the foundation began issuing yearly reports in 1990, but don't be fooled. During that same time, obesity rates have more than doubled and the life expectancy of the average baby girl in <st1:country-region>America</st1:country-region> is seven years less than her counterpart in <st1:country-region>Japan</st1:country-region>.
It is important that you take your health into your own hands. You won't find a pill or a surgical procedure that doesn't have some serious risks involved. Diet and exercise are both crucial, and work better together than either do on their own.
Although, of course, your location does not determine your health, Vital Votes readers reacted to the news with either joy or dismay. Jim, from Concord, Massachusetts, writes:
But Cynthia, from Sumter, South Carolina, adds: