A national report card says Utah is improving in some areas of health, but it still faces some challenges.
The United Health Foundation's Dr. Manuel Selva says Utah is the fifth healthiest state in the nation this year, up from sixth last year.
Utah got high marks for its low number of smokers and low rate of cancer. Utah has the lowest rate of cancer in the nation.
"It has the lowest prevalence of smoking in the country, so that's the good news. The bad news is that over the past year, that prevalence of smoking has increased 19 percent," he said.
Selva says Utah still has room for improvement in other areas, too. He says many Utahns are not immunizing their children, possibly because of concerns about the effects.
"It's important that they discuss it fully with their children's pediatrician before they make a decision not to immunize their children," Selva said.
Dr. David Sundwall, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) executive director said, "The UHF report is an important tool that helps us evaluate our progress in many areas of health care. While it puts the spotlight on our state's strengths, more importantly it shows us where we need to improve."
The UDOH notes that Utah's obesity rate increased over the past year; however, the state's obesity ranking actually improved slightly during the same time frame. In the past five years, the state's obesity rate has increased by 28 percent. Tom Hudachko with the Utah Department of Health says, "Utahns are continuing to get fatter, but there doing so may be slower than the rest of the country is and, of course, obesity is a disease with tremendous side effects on an individual's health and a community's health as well; things like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease,"
Utah also faces a critical shortage of primary care physicians, ranking 45th in the nation.
Another concern is the number of uninsured Utahns is on the rise. Hudachko says, "Our department of health numbers estimates that we have about 287,000 Utahns out there that do not have health insurance and that put them at a tremendous disadvantage." The report lists the percentage of uninsured Latino residents in Utah at 44 percent. Hudachko says that number is closer to 34 percent.
The number of Utahans with mental health problems slightly decreased in the past year, along with a drop in infectious diseases.
Utah ranks in the top 10 in 14 of the 22 determinants, including;
- Prevalence of smoking: 1st (no change from 2007)
- Cancer deaths: 1st (no change)
- Preventable hospitalizations: 2nd (no change)
- Cardiovascular deaths: 3rd (up from 5th)
- Prevalence of binge drinking: 3rd (down from 1st)
- Infant mortality: 4th (down from 2nd)
- Poor physical health: 4th (up from 17th)
- Infectious diseases: 5th (up from 10th)
- Premature death: 6th (up from 13th)
- Prevalence of obesity: 7th (up from 8th)
- Violent crime: 7th (down from 6th)
- Poor mental health: 8th (up from 18th)
- Children in poverty: 9th (up from 11th)
- High school graduation: 9th (no change)
You can view the entire report and the highlights for Utah by clicking the related links on this page.