Increases in obesity, diabetes and children in poverty are offsetting improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations and cardiovascular deaths, says a new report out today.

According to America’s Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment of the nation’s health, 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.

The report, published jointly by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, indicates that 2011 is the first year no state had an obesity prevalence under 20 percent. For every person who quit smoking in 2011, another person became obese.

As for which state is the healthiest, Vermont came out on top for the fifth year in a row.  States that showed the most substantial improvement include New York and New Jersey, both moving up six places, largely because of improvements made in smoking cessation. 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. 

The report offers a state-by-state snapshot of population health based on 23 measures.

“Where people live matters. Every state can make improvements to ensure healthier quality of lives for their residents,” said Reed Tuckson, MD, United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group. “States such as Tennessee and Maine — which made explicit efforts to improve their rankings — have shown us that improved public health is achievable but must be tackled in a concerted and aggressive way.”

The fact that the country did not improve in overall health status means there was a balance between improvements and detriments across all 23 measures. And while the report shows improvement in the number of smokers, levels of tobacco use are still far too high.

“Addressing the leading causes of these largely preventable diseases is essential if we are going to improve the nation’s health,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA. “America’s Health Rankings gives us a tool to gauge where we are and where we need to go, and the numbers should drive us to action.”

“The Rankings provides comprehensive data states can use to develop prevention solutions and health-improvement plans — empowering their residents to live long, healthy and productive lives,” said Jud Richland, MPH, president and CEO of Partnership for Prevention.

To see the Rankings in full, visit