New Hampshire is the best state in the nation for controlling diseases and the fifth best for its overall ranking.
There was little in the recent United Health Foundation report that surprised Garrett Simonsen, coordinator for the Derry Regional Public Health Network.
The positives in the report included a decrease in smoking, an improved high school graduation rate and a decrease in cardio-vascular deaths, Simonsen said.
While many Granite State residents have stopped lighting up, the report indicates that 190,000 adults in New Hampshire are still smoking, Simonsen noted. He said that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently announced a contest in connection with “Dear Me New Hampshire” to motivate residents to quit smoking. “We know that smoking is linked to a number of negative health outcomes, so the decrease in prevalence and the availability of programs to promote continued reductions is important,” he said.
New Hampshire was also noted for its high immunization rates among children, as well as its low percentage of children in poverty and low infant mortality rate. Simonsen said, “These are indicators often referenced in similar reports, like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings (www.countyhealthrankings.org). In 2013, Rockingham County ranked #1 in their report, which uses a similar approach (to this report) to measuring health, as well as uses similar health indicators.”
New Hampshire’s strengths include “lots of opportunity to engage in outdoor activity,” he said, which contributes to an overall healthy population.
Some indicators weren’t as good, he added. For example, while it is low compared to the rest of the country, the percentage of New Hampshire’s children living in poverty has increased. “We also have a fairly high rate of obesity and diabetes,” Simonsen said. “These are areas where we could stand to make improvement.”
Simonsen said the evaluation is based on four factors: activities that affect a resident’s health, the physical and built environment, availability of health resources, and access to clinical care.
Simonsen said United Health Foundation has made the national data for each health indicator interactive using online maps. He said, “When you visit their website, you can see the change in the state’s health status over the course of years. For example, you can see how over a relatively short period of time the state obesity rate has increased. The report highlights that in New Hampshire, 19.9 percent (220,000) of adults are physically inactive and 27.3 percent (300,000) adults are obese.”
But overall, he said of the report’s findings, “It’s something to be proud of.”
The report parallels data released in a report, “Outbreaks: Protecting Americans From Infections,” released in December and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health. In that report, New Hampshire scored highest of all 50 states in controlling and preventing infectious diseases. The state also scored high on maintaining or increasing public health funding, maintaining a public health laboratory capable of handling a surge in testing due to an outbreak, requiring health-care facilities to report infections to the state and providing HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccinations for teens.