Georgia and New York Health Departments Receive America’s Health Rankings Champion Award from ASTHO and United Health Foundation

September 11, 2014
  • Award recognizes state and territorial health departments that use America’s Health Rankings data to improve health in their jurisdictions

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and United Health Foundation announced that the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) are the 2014 winners of the America’s Health Rankings Champion Award.

The America’s Health Rankings Champion Award recognizes state and territorial health departments that use data from United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® reports to develop initiatives and programs that improve health outcomes in their jurisdictions, including addressing health disparities and building stronger relationships with local health departments and other partners. The Georgia and New York State health departments have demonstrated continuous success in using the rankings to improve health in their states.

In honor of the 25th Anniversary edition of America’s Health Rankings, GDPH and NYSDOH have been selected for their consistency in improving health outcomes over the past 24 years. From 1990 to 2013, Georgia’s infant mortality rate ranking improved 13 spots (from 47 to 34), and New York’s cancer mortality ranking improved 24 spots (from 35 to 11). The 2014 report will be released Dec. 10.

“We commend Georgia and New York for making significant progress in improving health outcomes in their states, particularly around infant mortality, and cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality,” said Paul Jarris, M.D., MBA, executive director of ASTHO. “Both states have demonstrated consistent progress in collaborating with nontraditional partners, and working to address health disparities through their programs and initiatives.”

GDPH has leveraged partnerships with local health departments, birthing hospitals, the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the pediatric community and nonprofit organizations to reduce the infant mortality rate among high-risk populations. When GDPH launched the Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth in 2009, 65 percent of childbirth deliveries at 37 and 38 weeks were elective, meaning a delivery that is performed for nonmedical reasons, usually for women who choose to schedule the birth of the baby on a specific date, for those who are uncomfortable during the last weeks of pregnancy or who fear vaginal birth.

By 2013, these deliveries had declined more than 50 percent in Georgia, reducing the potential for long term health challenges like asthma, difficulty feeding, and hearing and vision as well as learning and behavioral challenges.

“We are proud of the strong engagement between counties and districts. The Georgia Department of Public Health’s TeleHealth Network has great promise for solving the medical access problems in our state,” says Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, Georgia commissioner of health. “We utilize America’s Health Rankings® regularly to define our goals. One of the problems in our state is infant mortality – there are 41 counties with no obstetricians and 19 more with inadequate obstetric coverage.”

Georgia has been expanding its telehealth network to combat rural health access problems and is now connected in all of its 159 counties.“America’s Health Rankings provides the core data points and benchmarks utilized in New York’s Prevention Agenda 2013-2017,” said Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D., New York acting commissioner of health. “The prevention agenda vision is ‘New York as Healthiest State in the Nation,’ and these indicators are leveraged to help focus the prevention agenda on the priority areas that will most improve health outcomes.”

Smoking cessation is a high priority for NYSDOH. The number of youth and adult smokers between 2005 and 2010 declined by more than 700,000, and smoking prevalence was 15.5 percent, which is below the national average of 19.4 percent. Such improvements were possible due to a range of evidence-based practices and other factors, including a state cigarette excise tax, a statewide smoke-free air law and strategic communications campaigns.

“Since 1990, America’s Health Rankings has tracked the nation’s health, providing a unique, comprehensive perspective on how each state measures up,” said Kate Rubin, president, United Health Foundation. “Our goal is to do more than report the findings; it is to encourage action which improves our nation’s health. We are excited and encouraged to see that the Georgia and New York health departments were able to use these reports to make a positive difference in their residents’ health and well-being.”

About America’s Health Rankings
America’s Health Rankings® is the longest-running report of its kind. For 24 years, the Rankings have provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The Rankings employs a unique methodology, developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars. The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau. The report is reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector. For more information, visit

ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice. Web:; Twitter: @ASTHO.

About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, United Health Foundation has committed more than $240 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at

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