Hawaii named healthiest state, but officials note room for improvement

Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park

Hawaii is the healthiest state in the nation.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the United Health Foundation, 2016 America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.

The report offers a state-by-state analysis of available health data to determine national benchmarks and state rankings.

It describes recent health improvements in Hawaii, such as a 4-percent decrease in drug-related deaths over the last two years, and a 38 percent increase in vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) among girls 13 to 17 years old in the last year. Hawaii also has low percentage of population without insurance with only 5 percent (or about 1 in 20 people) lacking health insurance, compared with over 10 percent nationally.

“The department is pleased with Hawaii’s top ranking which reflects our state’s focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles and protecting our environment,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “However, while our state scored well among most of the report’s measures, we must remember that some health areas and population groups are not always captured in the data. We need to pay attention to groups that aren’t enjoying good health status so that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy and full life.”

According to the report, Hawaii has a low prevalence of obesity at 23 percent compared with 30 percent nationally. However, when including those who are overweight, more than half of Hawaii’s adult population (57 percent) is overweight or obese.

More than 61% of Hawaii adults—or 3 in 5—are living with at least one chronic disease or condition such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

Officials say the report is limited by available data, such as low screening rates for some health conditions. According to the report, diabetes is said to have decreased by 13 percent over the last year, however the data reflects only diagnosed cases of diabetes. When including undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes, it is estimated that more than half (54 percent) of Hawaii’s population has type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

“We are only now beginning to understand the pervasiveness of type 2 diabetes in our state,” said Lola Irvin, Administrator for the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division. “As we improve screening rates, we expect to see a sharp increase in the number of people living with diabetes and prediabetes.”

This is Hawaii’s fifth consecutive year at the top spot. During the 27 years in which the rankings were conducted, Hawaii’s rank has varied from first to sixth place.

Hawaii ranked in the top 3 in the following categories:

  • Heart attack
  • Preventable hospitalizations
  • All outcomes
  • Disparity in health status
  • Poor mental health days
  • Frequent physical distress
  • Obesity
  • Seat belt use
  • Cancer deaths
  • Clinical care
  • Public health funding
  • Vegetables
  • Heart disease
  • Frequent mental distress
  • Income disparity
  • Lack of health insurance

However, Hawaii also ranked in the bottom 10 in the following categories:

  • Water fluoridation
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Salmonella
  • Immunization Tdap
  • Chronic drinking
  • Cholesterol check
  • Excessive drinking
  • Binge drinking

View the full report online here.

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