Hawaii No. 1 again, for health

We all know the drawbacks of living in Hawaii. High cost of living. Island fever. Far from family on the Mainland, not to mention the cost of the airfare to see those relatives. 

But Hawaii, besides its beauty and beaches and aloha spirit, has something else that many would, ironically, die for: Good, even great, health.

The 25th anniversary of America’s Health Rankings found Hawaii ranks No. 1 among all U.S. states in overall health, for the second straight year. Folks here are among the fittest you’ll find anywhere, and that is something to brag about — which our governor did.

“This is encouraging news and I look forward to working with our public health and health care communities to ensure access to care and strengthen prevention efforts to reduce chronic disease and injury in our state,” Gov. David Y. Ige said. “I’m proud to say that Hawaii is the healthiest state in the nation, and we must continue to invest in our public health efforts.”

This great state is doing better than most over the past year. Consider that according to America’s Health Rankings, nationwide, obesity increased 7 percent from 27.6 percent to 29.4 percent of adults. Likewise, the percentage of adults who reported not participating in any physical activity in the last 30 days increased from 22.9 percent to 23.5 percent. That doesn’t sound very healthy.

Not so here. People are on the go. Hawaii is naturally a place where you want to be fit so you can swim, snorkel, dive, hike, bike, run, fish, surf, paddleboard — all the things that are part of what make life so wonderful here. The 2014 report illustrates Hawaii has its share of strengths, including low prevalence of obesity, low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rate of cancer deaths. It has seen a 13.3 percent decrease in adult smoking in the last three years.

“Hawaii’s top ranking reflects our state’s focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles and protecting our environment,” said Acting Health Director Keith Yamamoto. “The department is pleased to see Hawaii has maintained its No. 1 spot from last year.”

Hawaii, like every state, is not without its health concerns and does have its challenges, the report found. The state has a high prevalence of binge drinking, high incidence of infectious disease and low immunization coverage among children. And, according to the latest findings from the Hawaii Youth Tobacco Survey, there is increased use of non-traditional tobacco products — such as electronic cigarettes, water pipes or hookah and roll-your-own cigarettes — among public high school and public schools students. Our health officials must address those areas of concern.

The Aloha State should take pride in leading the nation in overall health, but it should not rest. There is still much at stake.

“For the last 25 years, United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings has provided an invaluable look at the challenges and opportunities facing Hawaii and how the picture of health in our state compares with those of our region and our nation,” said Ron Fujimoto, D.O., chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Hawaii. “We look forward to continuing to use the report as a key tool for identifying and implementing solutions to our most pressing challenges and measuring the strides we’ve made to date.”

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