2016 Annual Report: Years of Positive Health Gains in the United States Threatened by Rise in Cardiovascular and Drug Deaths

December 14, 2016
  • Notable long-term improvements in reducing the prevalence of smoking, rate of preventable hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries, and percentage of uninsured population

  • Prevalence of obesity among adult population remains high, and rising rates of cardiovascular and drug deaths signal serious health challenges

  • Hawaii ranks as nation’s healthiest state for the fifth straight year

The nation’s health is seeing  concerning upticks in key health indicators that threaten to offset years of public health successes, according to the key findings in United Health Foundation’s 27th America’s Health Rankings Annual Report®.

Through an analysis of 34 measures of behaviors, community and environment, policies and clinical care data, America’s Health Rankings Annual Report provides a holistic view of the nation’s health.

U.S. Sees Long-Term Improvements against Public Health Challenges Including Smoking, Preventable Hospitalizations and Rate of Uninsured

The report finds that the United States has made notable long-term improvements across key health indicators, including:

  • A reduction in the prevalence of smoking among adults. Since 1990, smoking among adults has decreased by 41 percent – including a 17 percent decrease in the last four years. 
  • Preventable hospitalizations have declined by 35 percent over the past decade, and achieved a 13 percent decline in the past year alone.
  • In the past five years, the rate of uninsured Americans declined by 35 percent – from 16.2 percent to 10.6 percent, which is the lowest point in the report’s 27-year history.

Rising Rates of Obesity, and Cardiovascular and Drug Deaths Signal Serious Health Challenges

While Americans have made substantial health gains in key areas, the report highlights serious challenges for the country that are eroding these hard-won gains, such as:

  • For the first time in the 27-year history of the America’s Health Rankings’ Annual Report, the cardiovascular death rate has increased in the past year (from 250.8 to 251.7 deaths per 100,000).
  • The rate of drug deaths has increased by 9 percent over the past five years, and increased by 4 percent in just the past year.
  • The premature death rate has increased for the second consecutive year – suggesting a troubling trend.
  • Since the first America’s Health Rankings’ Annual Report was released in 1990, the prevalence of obesity among adults has increased by an astounding 157 percent.

State Rankings in 2016: Hawaii Ranks 1st, Mississippi Ranks 50th

  • Hawaii ranks as the healthiest state in 2016 for the fifth straight year, followed by Massachusetts (2), Connecticut (3), Minnesota (4) and Vermont (5).
  • Mississippi drops from 49th to 50th this year, replacing Louisiana, now 49th. Arkansas (48), Alabama (47) and Oklahoma (46) round out the states with greatest opportunities for improvement.

“We have made important strides across the country against public health challenges; however, we are at a crossroads between a healthier future as a nation and a future in which troubling public health measurements become increasingly common,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “Of particular concern is the first-time rise in cardiovascular deaths, despite all the medical advances in this area. This data provides a roadmap for states, local communities and the public health sector to work together to get ahead of the challenges coming.”

About America’s Health Rankings and the 27th Annual Report

America’s Health Rankings Annual Report is the longest-running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. For 27 years, the report has analyzed a comprehensive set of behaviors, community and environmental conditions, policies, clinical care and outcomes data to provide a holistic view of the health of the nation.

The longevity of the report and wealth of credible data available for analysis provide a unique opportunity to track both short- and long-term successes and identify current and emerging challenges to the nation’s health.

United Health Foundation has recently expanded its reporting series to include a number of spotlight reports focused on important markers of the nation’s health, including prevention and the impacts of unhealthy behaviors, and population reports on the health of seniors, of women and children and of those who have served. For more information, visit