WASHINGTON, DC -- The overall health of the nation declined over the past year despite progress made in some key health indicators, according to a report released this week by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for Prevention. The report indicates that the overall health of the nation declined by a rate of 0.3 percent since last year.

The 18th annual edition of “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for People and Their Communities” measures the overall healthiness of states and the nation using a longitudinal set of related health determinants and health outcomes.

The decline in the nation’s health this year is in sharp contrast to the nation’s average annual improvement of 1.5 percent between 1990 and 2000. Since 2000, a virtual stagnation in health improvement has occurred. The United States trails other nations in health indicators such as infant mortality and healthy life expectancy.

Although this year’s report shows that modest gains have occurred in reducing the rates of cancer and cardiovascular mortality, the improvements continue to be dwarfed by increasing obesity, increasing numbers of uninsured people and children living in poverty, and the persistence of risky health behaviors, such as tobacco use and violent crime—all of which have a significant impact on the overall healthiness of the nation.

“Even though specific mortality rates have improved, this report shows there are still many people who, through unhealthy personal behaviors, adverse community environments and difficult access to care, are vulnerable to a future life of poor health—which is essentially preventable,” says Reed Tuckson, MD, member of the board of United Health Foundation, a not-for-profit group dedicated to providing information to support health and medical decisions that lead to better health outcomes and healthier communities. “The consequence of this reality manifests itself in a poor quality of life, people living with chronic disease, compromised productivity and significant escalation in the costs associated with managing chronic illness.”

The report also ranked the healthiness of each state. Vermont surpassed Minnesota this year as the healthiest state. Minnesota ranked second, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire and Connecticut. The least healthy state was Mississippi. Also in the bottom five were Louisiana at 49, Arkansas at 48, Oklahoma at 47 and Tennessee at 46.

To view the full report, go to www.americashealthrankings.org or www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.