Health ranking jumped from 40th in 1990 to No. 11 today
ALBANY — New York’s health ranking has improved more than any other state during the past 30 years in part due to improved access to health insurance coverage and primary care doctors, a new report shows.
The Empire State’s climb from 40th least healthy state in 1990 to 11th healthiest today comes despite its struggles to curb recent spikes in drug deaths, sexually transmitted disease and health inequality, according to the 2019 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report.
Drug deaths in New York, for instance, increased 53% in the past three years alone, rising from 11 to 17 deaths per 100,000 population, the report shows. That’s compared to the 37% increase in drug deaths for the nation since 2016, a trend driven mostly by the opioid crisis.
Since 1990, the nation’s health in general has made progress through long-term public health efforts like decreasing rates of smoking and infant mortality, but it continues to face challenges related to growing rates of obesity and diabetes, the report shows.
The list of highlights for New York included a broad range of promising signs:
The percentage of population without health insurance decreased 64% since 2001, dropping from 15.6% to 5.6%. More than 4.8 million New Yorkers get their health-care coverage through the state's health exchange.
Since 2016, primary care physicians increased 12% from about 206 to 231 per 100,000 population.
The number of mental health providers in New York increased 12% in the past two years, rising from about 259 to 291 per 100,000 population.
Since 1990, infant mortality decreased 58% from nearly 11 to 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Vermont is the healthiest state in 2019, followed by Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut and Utah.
The rankings analyzed a variety of metrics including health behaviors, community and environment, clinical care and medical outcomes data. They also reflect how broader determinants, such as education, air pollution and the supply of mental health providers, impact overall health.
The report is part of a partnership between United Health Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with the health care company UnitedHealth Group, and American Public Health Association.
Beyond the drug deaths, New York’s health challenges included low immunization coverage among children.
The percentage of kids ages 19 to 35 months fully immunized was about 68% in New York, the report shows. That ranked 42nd worst in the country.
It’s a health risk that New York lawmakers sought to address by repealing the religious exemption to vaccination for students earlier this year. Though early reports indicated many previously unvaccinated kids were getting immunized before returning to school this fall, exact data has yet to be released.
Other health challenges facing New York included:
High rates of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection, which increased 41% from about 418 to 588 cases per 1000,000 population over the past decade.
About 82% of students graduate high school in New York, which ranked 39th lowest in the nation and contributed to disparities in health related to educational attainment.
The percentage of children in poverty stood at nearly 19%, which ranked 32nd lowest in the nation.
In New York and other states across the country, diabetes and obesity has also become a significant health risk.
Since 1996, the percentage of adults nationally with diabetes has increased 148% from 4.4% to 10.9%. It now impacts approximately 30 million adults. Additionally, obesity has increased 166% over the past 30 years, from 11.6% to 30.9%.
More than one in four New York adults, or nearly 28%, is obese today, the report shows.
Further, mortality rates for U.S. adults ages 25-64 continue to increase, driving down the general population’s life expectancy in recent years, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The study paints a bleak picture of a workforce plagued by drug overdoses, suicides and organ-system diseases while grappling with economic stresses.
As a result, U.S. life expectancy has decreased from a peak of 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 in 2017, the last year covered by the report.
Some of the state rankings underscored a USA TODAY Network analysis that found where New Yorkers live and, in many ways, how much money they have affects their health.
For instance, some communities have historically struggled with above average unemployment rates and other economic red flags that negatively impacted residents' health, according to research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Rockland County took the top spot this year as healthiest out of 62 counties statewide, followed by Westchester at No. 3, and Putnam at No. 6, based on a variety of health, economic and social issues.
Also near the top was Ontario County at No. 9, followed by Tompkins, Livingston, Dutchess and Yates at between 11 and 14, respectively.