America’s Health Rankings 2019 Annual Report Marks 30 Years of Public Health Progress and Challenges

December 05, 2019
  • The 2019 Annual Report reveals rising rates of diabetes, suicide and drug deaths

  • 30 years of data show progress and ongoing challenges, with smoking rate decreasing by 45% while obesity rate climbs 166%

  • Expert panel to discuss public health improvements over past 30 years as well as ongoing challenges

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) to receive the America’s Health Rankings 30th Anniversary Champion of Public Health Award

For 30 years, America’s Health Rankings has played a leading role in raising awareness of important trends in public health. Today, the United Health Foundation released the 2019 America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report, which highlights health trends from the past three decades as well as from the past year. The report showcases meaningful progress in reducing smoking and infant mortality. It also identifies challenges including increasing rates of diabetes, suicide and drug deaths.

To mark the 30th edition of the Annual Report, the United Health Foundation is hosting “Shaping the Future of Public Health: Learning from 30 Years of Data,” a public event to convene experts and discuss public health progress and challenges of the last 30 years.

Starting in 1990, America’s Health Rankings has helped frame the debate on public health issues by identifying key health challenges at both the national and state levels.

Key national findings from the 2019 report include:

  • In the past year, improvements have been made in lowering the rates of smoking (decreasing 6%), children in poverty (decreasing 2%), and increasing the supply of mental health providers (increasing 5%). In the past two years, infant mortality has declined, resulting in 1,200 fewer deaths (decreasing 2%).
  • Obesity prevalence among Americans is now at 30.9%, up 11% since 2012.
  • Diabetes is now at 10.9% of the U.S. population, up 4% in the past year.
  • The rate of drug deaths increased 37% from 14.0 to 19.2 deaths per 100,000 – equating to more than 53,000 additional deaths over a three-year period.
  • The suicide rate increased 4% nationally in the past year, and is up in a total of 30 states.

Key findings from America’s Health Rankings 30 years of data include:

  • Smoking among adults has decreased 45% since 1990. Today, 16.1% of adults report that they smoke. (Note: Data from 36 states on adult e-cigarette use has been added this year.)
  • Infant mortality has decreased 43% since 1990, with declines in all 50 states.
  • Obesity has increased 166% over the past 30 years, from 11.6% to 30.9%.
  • Diabetes has reached the highest prevalence since 1996, the first year America’s Health Rankings tracked it, increasing 148% among adults.
  • The national suicide rate has increased 17% since 2012.
  • Drug deaths have increased 104% since 2007.
  • Click here to read the Executive Highlights, a summary that distills key findings from the past 30 years and this year.

“Over the past 30 years, the understanding and science of public health has changed dramatically,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare and advisor to America’s Health Rankings. “Many health issues that were concerning in 1990 remain so today, and additional issues have arisen that require action now. America’s Health Rankings will continue to provide evolving state and national snapshots of health to inform and drive action to build healthier communities.”

2019 Rankings Among States

The 2019 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report also provides a snapshot of overall health across states and the nation. Key highlights include:

  • Vermont topped the list of healthiest states in 2019, followed by Massachusetts (No. 2), Hawaii (No. 3), Connecticut (No. 4) and Utah (No. 5). Vermont improved three ranks in 2019 to take the top spot.
  • Mississippi ranks No. 50 this year, while Louisiana (No. 49), Arkansas (No. 48), Alabama (No. 47) and Oklahoma (No. 46) follow with opportunities for improvement.
  • New York has made the most progress since the Annual Report was first released in 1990, improving 29 ranks from No. 40 to No. 11.

“Despite many successes, our country has work to do to ensure every person, regardless of where you live, has an equal opportunity to live a long and healthy life,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director, American Public Health Association, which partnered with the United Health Foundation to produce the 2019 America’s Health Rankings Annual Report.

America’s Health Rankings 30th Anniversary Event

Notable public health leaders who will participate in today’s panel discussion include Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director, American Public Health Association; Dr. Judy Monroe, president and CEO, CDC Foundation; Dr. Michael Fraser, CEO, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; Dr. Rhonda Randall, executive vice president and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare; and Dr. Richard Migliori, chief medical officer, UnitedHealth Group, who will moderate. The panel discussion will be made available via LiveStream and archived on

Prior to today’s panel discussion, the United Health Foundation will present the America’s Health Rankings 30th Anniversary Champion of Public Health Award to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) for their long-standing commitment to public health.

“UnitedHealth Group is honored to celebrate Sen. Murray and Rep. Walden, and we are grateful for their decades of leadership,” said Migliori. “They understand the value that credible data from America’s Health Rankings provides in advancing public health progress and achieving long-term health goals, and we are grateful for all of their support.”

About the America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report

America’s Health Rankings, in partnership this year with the American Public Health Association (APHA), collaborated with an advisory group of leading experts in public health to develop the 2019 Annual Report. The Annual Report provides a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health and on a state-by-state basis. The report includes 35 core measures of health that are used to rank states.

About the United Health Foundation

Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. The 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, the United Health Foundation has committed $430 million to programs and communities around the world. We invite you to learn more at