Hawaii maintains position as healthiest state

It’s time to celebrate, Hawaii! The state has had its annual checkup and, once again, Hawaii has been named America’s healthiest state.

Celebrating 25 years of checking America’s health state by state, the latest America’s Health Rankings, sponsored by the United Health Foundation, puts Hawaii in the No. 1 spot for overall health.

Hawaii may be known for its sunshine, moderate climate and beautiful scenery, but it also has established itself as a place where good health is part of the fabric and culture of the islands. In the 25 years that America’s Health Rankings has taken the pulse of the states’ health, Hawaii has consistently ranked among the top six healthiest states in the nation.

Why?

As a lifetime Hawaii resident, physician and chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan of Hawaii, I believe Hawaii is just a healthy place to live. Yes, the climate is great and we spend a lot of time outdoors year-round. But we also have a lot of highly qualified health care professionals, as well as terrific private, nonprofit and government health organizations serving Hawaii residents.

What’s also impressive, according to the rankings, is where Hawaii did so well: We have a low prevalence of obesity, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and a low rate of cancer deaths.

We all know that lifestyle has a big impact on health and that poverty can have a big impact on lifestyle. The rankings show that since 1990, the number of Hawaii children in poverty has decreased from 20.7 percent to 12.7 percent. While that’s still too high — we are moving in the right direction and making progress.

Hawaii also has seen a 15 percent decrease in binge drinking, though that, too, is still too high. And Hawaii residents don’t smoke as much as they did, ranking our state in the top three nationally.

That’s not to say we don’t have our challenges. We have low immunization rate among our young children and a high incidence of infectious diseases.

But overall, we are moving in the right direction and other states will look at Hawaii’s results in these health rankings and consider what’s working here.

And they should. According to America’s Health Rankings – the longest running comparative health index of all 50 states – obesity and sedentary behavior have gone back up nationally after a short-lived improvement in 2013.

Hawaii residents should be proud that once again our state has been named the healthiest in the country. So, let’s celebrate by getting out there and eating right, exercising, having fun with your family and friends, and just enjoy living in one of the healthiest places in world.

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Ron Fujimoto, D.O., Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Hawaii.

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