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Utah Gets High Marks in Rankings of State's Health

Utah Gets High Marks in Rankings of State's Health

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- There's a healthy buzz about the Beehive State.

Utah ranks as the third healthiest state in the nation, in a study released Monday at the American Public Health Association's annual conference in San Francisco.

The report by United Health Foundation shows Utah has a low prevalence of smoking, a low rate of deaths from heart disease and a low rate of cancer deaths.

There's also a low violent crime rate, strong high school graduation rate and low total mortality rate in Utah.

"These ranking symbolize much of the valuable work that's being done in public health," said Steve McDonald, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health. "We feel like we're fortunate to have prominent community, family and environmental support that lead to healthier behaviors."

The state was topped only by Minnesota and New Hampshire, which tied for top honors. Utah finished fourth in the 2002 rankings, which are based on a variety of factors such as smoking, motor vehicle deaths, high school graduation rates, children in poverty, access to care, disabilities and incidence of preventable disease.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Departments of Health, Commerce, Education and Labor, the National Safety Council and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The study found a low prevalence of smoking at 12.7 percent of the population, a low rate of deaths from heart disease at 191.8 deaths per 100,000 population and a low rate of cancer deaths at 164.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

In the past year, the rate of the uninsured population declined from 14.8 percent to 13.4 percent, and the premature death rate decreased from 6,503 to 6,109 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population.

Since 1990, the infant mortality rate has decreased from 8.7 to 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, and the rate of deaths from heart disease has decreased from 282.6 to 191.8 deaths per 100,000 population.

In 2002, Utah began a health insurance program, the Primary Care Network, that provides primary care benefits to uninsured adults. The state says PCN, since July 2002, has served nearly 17,000 adults who otherwise would have gone uninsured.

But the state still faces a number of challenges, chiefly in the number of women who receive prenatal care. Only 58 percent of pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care, the study found. Also, occupational fatalities are higher than average.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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