La. improves one spot in health rankings to No. 48 out of 50

Louisiana ranked No. 48 among the 50 states in overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s 2013 America’s Health Rankings.

Louisiana moved up one spot from last year’s rankings. The state’s strengths include high-immunization coverage among adolescents; low incidences of pertussis, or whooping cough, infections; and little disparity in health status despite differences in education levels.

However, the report shows high percentages of Louisiana residents aren’t exercising, and residents have high rates of obesity and diabetes. In 2013, 34.7 percent of Louisiana residents were obese, the worst rate in the country.

A person 5 feet, 5 inches tall who weighed 180 pounds is considered obese. Normal weight for that person ranges from around 111 to 149 pounds.

Louisiana also has a high percentage of children in poverty, high rates of infant deaths and a high prevalence of low birth weight.

Hawaii ranked as the healthiest state. Vermont, last year’s No. 1 state, dropped one spot, followed by Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mississippi was No. 50. Other members of the bottom five included Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia.

The report found that nationally Americans’ health improved, with fewer people smoking, lower rates of obesity and higher rates of physical activity.

The nonprofit foundation was established in 1999 by health insurer UnitedHealth Group. The foundation supports efforts to increase access to care and partners with other groups to improve the well-being of communities.

One of those partnerships is the American Heart Association’s Start! Walking Paths. UnitedHealth helped fund the first New Orleans Walking Path, across from City Hall, and another in Palmer Park uptown.