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Pennsylvania ranks 28 among states for population health

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Record numbers of drug deaths and air pollution compared to high numbers of primary care physicians and low rates of uninsured patients placed Pennsylvania in the middle of the United Health Foundation's 2018 America Health Rankings.

In 35 categories, the state ranked number 28 out of a list comparing the health of the populations of each state in the country based on data obtained from sources including the CDC, EPA and FBI.

The America Health Ranking report is the longest annual assessment of its kind. The report measures five key points that make up a healthy population according to the United Health Foundation. Those measures include: behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care and health outcomes.

Pennsylvania has not changed in rank since last year, but has seen both improvements and declines in its individual ratings. The report notes that the state is ranked 46 out of 50 in drug deaths, with 28 out of every 100,000 Pennsylvanians dying from drug related causes. Since 2015, those numbers have increased from 18.7 out of every 100,000.

“That’s really concerning that it is increasing, drug deaths (in the state) increased 50 percent in the last three years,” said Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare National Markets and an adviser to America’s Health Rankings. “Drug death, air quality and smoking are some of the areas that would have the greatest impact on Pennsylvania improving its health.”

The report also states that the state has some of the highest air pollution in the country, ranking at 48. Randall said that the state has improved its air over the years but is sluggishly behind the improvements other states are making.

In the past six years, the report notes that smoking among adults has decreased by 17 percent, however, the state is still ranked 34 among the states with the most smokers. Pennsylvania led in the rankings for members of the populations with primary care physicians at 208 people having a physician for every 100,000. The state has also kept its population of uninsured individuals low over the 29 years of the report.

“It looks like regardless of what is happening in the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania has done better than the rest of the US,” Randall said.

The report found that combined, the country has had increased numbers in obesity with 31.3 percent of Americans reporting that they are obese. Pennsylvania ranked number 26 in the nation, with a 26 percent obese rate..

“Even the states with the lowest obesity are still too much,” Randall said. “We know that it might actually be under reported. Over the 29 years it has never been this high.”

The report is used in policy making and throughout the public health community, according to Randall, who said that states need to continue to keep improving in where they succeed for 2019.

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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