Wisconsin Moves Up in National Health Survey

Wisconsin Ranks 13th nationally in overall health, up five spots from last year, according to an America's Health Rankings report released by United Health Foundation.

The 2011 America’s Health Rankings®, released this week by United Health Foundation in collaboration with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, finds that troubling nationwide increases in obesity, diabetes and children in poverty are offsetting improvements in smoking cessation, premature deaths, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths. The report finds that the country’s overall health did not improve between 2010 and 2011 – a drop from the 0.5-percent average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010 and the 1.6-percent average annual rate of improvement seen in the 1990s.

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to help understand the health care needs of individuals and communities nationwide and in Wisconsin and has several programs in place designed to address these needs.

“America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Wisconsin,” said Bruce Weiss, MD, MPH, senior market medical director for UnitedHealthcare. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”

Wisconsin’s Bill of Health

According to the 22nd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Wisconsin is 13th this year compared to 18th in 2010 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, just like every other state, Wisconsin has its share of strengths and challenges.

Wisconsin’s Strengths

  • High rate of high school graduation – 1st (89.6 percent of incoming 9th graders graduate within four years)
  • Low rate of uninsured population – 4th (9.2 percent without health insurance)
  • Low incidence of infectious disease – 4th (4.8 cases per 100,000 population)
  • Low percentage of children in poverty – 7th (12.7 percent of persons under age 18)

Wisconsin’s Challenges

  • High prevalence of binge drinking – 50th (22.8 percent of adult population)
  • Low per capita public health funding – 50th ($40 per person)

UnitedHealthcare Programs Address Wisconsin’s Health Needs

UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health needs underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.

  • Diabetes Prevention: Milwaukee will soon become the latest market to introduce UnitedHealthcare’s national partnership with the YMCA, through which participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans in select markets participate with no out-of-pocket cost in the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a group-based lifestyle intervention program that helps people who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes. For those with diabetes there will be a corresponding program in cooperation with local pharmacies to improve the control of the disease to help prevent its complications.
  • Binge Drinking: UnitedHealthcare employs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) process to identify hazardous drinking patterns among members participating in employee assistance programs (EAP)


“While we at UnitedHealthcare look to America’s Health Rankings to help shape our priorities for addressing health needs, each person individually, and in their capacity as an employee, employer, educator, voter, community volunteer, medical professional, public health official or elected official, can contribute to the advancement of Wisconsin’s overall healthiness,” added Dr. Weiss. “And that’s the ultimate purpose of America’s Health Rankings: to foster public conversation concerning health in our states and providing information to facilitate citizen, community and group participation, because proven, effective and innovative actions can improve the health of people in every state whether the state is first or 50th.”

All 50 States: Vermont Still the Healthiest

For the fifth year in a row, Vermont was the nation’s healthiest state. States that showed the most substantial improvement include New York and New Jersey, both moving up six places. Idaho and Alaska showed the most downward movement. Idaho dropped 10 spots, from number nine to 19 in this year’s Rankings, and Alaska dropped five places.

Nationwide: Progress in Some Areas Offset by Setbacks in Others

This year’s Rankings highlight several positive nationwide trends. Improvements were made in: 

  • Smoking cessation: 17.3 percent of the population smoked in 2011, down from 17.9 percent in 2010 – a 3.4-percent decline since 2010; a 25.4-percent decline since 2001.
  • Preventable hospitalizations: 70.6 preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare enrollees in 2011, down from 68.2 preventable hospitalizations in 2010 – a 3.4-percent decline since 2010; a 17.3-percent decline since 2001.
  • Cardiovascular deaths: 270.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2011, down from 278.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2010 – a 2.8-percent decline since 2010; a 22.2-percent decline since 2001

While this year’s Rankings showed notable improvements, they were offset by troubling increases in:


  • Obesity: From 26.9 percent of the adult population in 2010 to 27.5 percent in 2011 – a 2.2-percent increase since 2010; a 37.5-percent increase since 2001; 2011 is the first year when no state had an obesity prevalence under 20 percent.
  • Diabetes: From 8.3 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2011 – a 4.8-percent increase since 2010; a 42.6-percent increase since 2001.
  • Children in poverty: From 20.7 percent in 2010 to 21.5 percent in 2011 – a 3.9-percent increase since 2010; a 33.5-percent increase since 2001.

The fact that the country did not improve at all in overall health status means there was a total balance between improvements and detriments across all 23 measures. A compelling example of this stagnation is improvements in the number of smokers being off-set by worsening rates of obesity: the Rankings found that, for every person who quit smoking in 2011, another person became obese.

To see the Rankings in full, please visit: www.americashealthrankings.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jbw December 16, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Wouldn't lower per capita public health funding by itself be a positive thing? I mean maintaining health while spending less means you are more efficient. Is there a causal relationship between the smoking cessation and rising obesity?


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