The United Health Foundation has released its 2019 America’s Health Rankings® Health of Women and Children Report and the data reveals signs of progress and room for improvement. Increases in teen suicide rates, child mortality rates and maternal mortality rates are troubling, but improvements have been made nationwide to decrease the rate of teen births and tobacco smoking and to increase the rate of flu vaccinations among women ages 18-44.
“This year’s Health of Women and Children Report highlights troubling health trends for America’s youth in particular and underscores a pressing need to address these challenges as a nation as soon as possible,” said Dr. Linda Genen, Optum chief medical officer of Women’s Health.
Good News on Teen Births, Flu Vaccinations and Smoking
Since the 2016 America’s Health Rankings Health of Women and Children Report, the nation has made progress in decreasing the rate of teen births and smoking and increasing the number of flu vaccinations.
- The birth rate among teens ages 15-19 decreased 22%, with all states seeing improvements.
- Nearly 1.3 million more women ages 18-44 received the flu vaccine compared with the 2016 report, an increase of 5%.
- Smoking among women ages 18-44 decreased 12% since 2016, with significant decreases in nine states.
Troubling Mortality Measures
The report revealed troubling mortality measures:
- The teen suicide rate increased 25% for adolescents ages 15-19 since the 2016 report.
- The child mortality rate increased 6% for children ages 1-19 since the 2016 report.
- The maternal mortality rate is highest among African American mothers at 63.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, 3.8 times higher than the lowest rate (Asian/Pacific Islander mothers).
“Maternal mortality rates continue to be troubling as well, and are more distressing for African American women and in specific states by comparison. UnitedHealth Group is committed to doing more to reverse these concerning trends,” said Dr. Janice Huckaby, Optum chief medical officer for Maternal-Child Health Strategy.
Lighthouse Youth & Family Services, a Cincinnati-based, nationally recognized innovator of services for youth and families in crisis that receives support from the United Health Foundation, praised the findings of the report for its accuracy and value.
“Data sources that help quantify the impact of social determinants of health in our community are an important part of helping Lighthouse adapt to meet the needs of young people and families. We know firsthand that the needs are significant, and in some cases, growing,” said Paul Haffner, president and CEO Lighthouse Youth & Family Services. “We are grateful to the United Health Foundation for this information to help us advance conversations with policymakers at various local, state and national levels.”
Healthiest Women and Children by State
Rhode Island is the healthiest state for women and children, according to America’s Health Rankings, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. Mississippi ranks as the state with the most health challenges for women and children, followed by Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Nevada.
New York has made the most progress on women and children’s health since the 2018 Health of Women and Children Report, improving six ranks from 19 to 13. Nebraska experienced the greatest decline since 2018, falling to 28 from 22.