Virginia ranks as 20th healthiest state in U.S.

Published 10:10 pm Saturday, December 10, 2011

Out of all of the states, Virginia ranks 20th in overall health, according to recently released health rankings.

United Health Foundation released its America’s Health Rankings last week, and Virginia jumped two spots from its ranking in 2010.

“America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Virginia,” said Dr. Edward Koza, the medical director for UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state, we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”

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The health rankings report found that Virginia has both strengths and weaknesses when it comes to health.

The commonwealth’s strengths include a low violent crime rate, which is the sixth-lowest in the country; a high use of early prenatal care, with 85 percent of pregnancies with a visit during the first trimester; and a low percentage of children in poverty, ranking fourth in the nation with only 12.3 percent.

However, there was also bad news for Virginia.

The rankings report it has moderate immunization coverage, and it ranks 28th in the nation for that category.

Additionally, the report found, the commonwealth has levels of air pollution that are higher than 31 other states.

There also is a high prevalence of smoking with 18.5 percent of the adult population lighting up. That is a decrease of almost 3 percent from last year, but it is a smaller reduction than other states have experienced, according to the report.

While Virginia made improvements from its 2010 health ranking, the country overall did not fare well, the report says.

This year was the first that no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent.

The Health Rankings show the obesity rate in the adult population increased 2.2 percent since 2010 and rose by more than 30 percent in the past decade.

Additionally, the country showed a higher percentage of diabetes and children living in poverty.

The report concludes America did not improve at all in overall health status in the past year.

Vermont was found to be the country’s healthiest state for the fifth year in a row.

America’s Health Rankings is an annual assessment published by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The data is collected from outside sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association and U.S. Census Bureau.

To view all of the findings, visit