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SALT LAKE CITY -- A new report shows Utah has moved up from being the fifth to the second healthiest state in the nation.
The America's Health Rankings report credits Utah with having the lowest rates in the nation for smoking, cancer deaths, infant mortality and binge drinking.
"The UHF report is the most respected of its kind in the public health world, so to be recognized as the 2nd healthiest state is truly something to be proud of," said Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director Dr. David Sundwall. "However, it doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. My goal is to be the healthiest state in the nation, and we still have some challenges to address before we can achieve that goal."
The UHF cited Utah's limited availability of primary care physicians, high geographic disparity within the state, and low public health funding as significant challenges.
"To become the healthiest state in the nation Utah must focus on closing the gap in health disparities, particularly among the state's rapidly growing minority populations," said UDOH Deputy Director Teresa Garrett. "Utah should be a place where all people can enjoy the best health possible."
And despite being ranked 5th in the nation for prevalence of obesity, Utah's rate continues to climb, with 23 percent of Utahns falling into that category.
"I take no comfort in being ranked 5th in the nation for obesity, as it simply means Utahns are not yet getting fat as fast as the rest of the nation is. However, we are on a quick track of getting there," Sundwall said. "Obesity is a significant public health threat to our entire community; my goal is to see a time where our obesity rate actually falls from one year to the next."
The UHF report praises Utah for its efforts in preventing infant mortality; the state's rate dropped by 45 percent over the 20 years the health rankings report has been published. The state also received credit for decreasing its rate of uninsured residents.
Utah ranks in the top 10 in 12 of the 22 determinants, including:
Prevalence of smoking 1st (no change from 2008) Infant mortality 1st (up from 4th) Cancer deaths 1st (no change) Prevalence of binge drinking 1st (up from 3rd) Children in poverty 2nd (up from 9th) Preventable hospitalizations 2nd (no change) Cardiovascular deaths 3rd (no change) Prevalence of obesity 5th (up from 7th) Poor physical health days 5th (down from 4th) Violent crime 6th (up from 7th) Infectious diseases 6th (down from 5th) Premature death 7th (up from 6th)
The report ranked Vermont as the healthiest state in the nation. Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Hampshire round out the top five.