America’s Health Rankings 2021 Annual Report Illustrates Complex Picture of America’s Health

December 07, 2021 | 3 min Read
  • Report is first to include data collected during COVID-19 pandemic

The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), today released its “America’s Health Rankings® 2021 Annual Report,” which provides insights into the early effects of COVID-19 on Americans’ health and well-being. The report — which includes new, publicly available data — paints a complex and nuanced picture of America’s health during the pandemic, including reversals of longer-term trends across several measures.

“In this year’s report — which provides a comprehensive look at our nation’s overall health — we begin to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has had both direct and indirect impacts on health and health trends,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, executive vice president and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, part of UnitedHealth Group. “The report also demonstrates an urgent and ongoing need to further examine and discuss these findings and how to best address Americans’ most pressing health needs.”

The most notable impact of COVID-19 in the report was a 17% increase in the U.S. death rate between 2019 and 2020. The COVID-19 death rate was the highest among the American Indian/Alaska Native population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many other measures tell a more nuanced story, including:

  • A 13% increase in high health status, the percentage of adults reporting that their health was very good or excellent, nationally between 2019 and 2020. This reverses a downward trend that began in 2012. In 2020, high health status was far higher among Asian (60.5%) and white (59.2%) adults than among American Indian/Alaska Native (43.5), Hispanic (46.5%) and Black (47.7%) adults.
  • A 7% decrease in the prevalence of cancer, which had increased 9% between 2016 and 2019. However, screenings declined for breast cancer (17%) and colon cancer (23%) between 2019 and 2020, according to UnitedHealthcare data.
  • A 5% decrease nationally in the percentage of adults engaged in excessive drinking to 17.6%, the lowest level since 2014, driven largely by a 7% decrease in binge drinking — defined as four or more drinks for females or five or more drinks for males on one occasion in the past 30 days — between 2019 and 2020. Despite the decrease, heavy drinking — defined as eight or more drinks per week for females or 15 or more drinks per week for males — moved from 6.5% to 6.7% between 2019 and 2020.      

The report also found that public health funding increased 33% nationally from $87 to $116 per person between 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 — the highest level since at least 2015, when America’s Health Rankings began using the same data source. This includes increases in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. by 12% or more.

“The pandemic has shown us how important it is to have a strong public health infrastructure to continue to address the challenges we face,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It is my hope that we use this data to build a public health system that can work to protect all Americans and address health inequities.”

The 32nd edition of the Annual Report, available at AmericasHealthRankings.org, examines 81 measures from 30 unique data sources to understand the impact that social, economic, environmental and other factors have on health. In addition, the report includes the longest-running state-by-state analysis of our nation’s health, and provides actionable, data-driven insights that stakeholders can use to effect change, either in a state or nationally, and continue the dialogue of improving our nation’s health. UnitedHealth Group plans to use the findings of this report as a critical source of information to fulfill its mission of making the health system work better for everyone.

About America’s Health Rankings

For over three decades, America’s Health Rankings® has assessed the nation’s health and provided data-driven insights to support better health outcomes and build healthier communities. Produced by the United Health Foundation, America’s Health Rankings evaluates a comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to illuminate both health challenges and successes, determine national and state health benchmarks and enable stakeholders to take action in improving health.

UnitedHealth Group and America’s Health Rankings

UnitedHealth Group uses findings from America’s Health Rankings reports, along with additional data and insights from the organization’s 340,000 employees, to devise and deliver targeted, meaningful solutions that address America’s health disparities — in health care, insurance, clinical expertise and financial support. UnitedHealth Group partners with national and local organizations, government agencies, experts and lawmakers to further improve and better target these solutions, and help all people live healthier lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UnitedHealth Group provided more than $100 million in support to those directly affected by COVID-19, including hot spot relief efforts, health workforce safety, seniors and individuals experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. UnitedHealth Group is also focused on reducing health disparities informed by America’s Health Rankings, including through philanthropic partnerships that address specific community health needs.

Learn more about UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to building a sustainable health care system in the company’s annual Sustainability Report.

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 more than $500 million to programs and communities around the world. To learn more, visit UnitedHealthFoundation.org.