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Oregon ranked 13th-healthiest state

Published On: Dec 11 2012 12:45:17 AM CST
Medicine generic AP


Americans are living longer due to several medical advances, but unhealthy behavior and preventable illness threaten quality of life, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings® which rank Oregon No. 13 among the healthiest states.

While premature, cardiovascular and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18.0 percent, 34.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, Americans are experiencing troubling levels of obesity (27.8 percent of the adult population), diabetes (9.5 percent of the adult population), high blood pressure (30.8 percent of the adult population) and sedentary behavior (26.2 percent of the adult population).

UnitedHealthcare watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities nationwide and in Oregon and has several programs in place designed to address these needs. Programs educate U.S. and Oregon citizens on how to live healthy lives and empower individuals to advocate for public health improvement.

“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 Oregon,” said Dr. Robert Muller, medical director for UnitedHealthcare Northwest. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”

Oregon’s Bill of Health

According to the 23rd Edition of America’s Health Rankings, Oregon is 13th this year compared to 8th in 2011 when compared with the health of other states. This year’s report finds that, similar to every other state, Oregon has its share of strengths and challenges.

Oregon’s Strengths

·         Low prevalence of sedentary lifestyle: While Oregon’s sedentary lifestyle rate is one of the lowest in the U.S., there are still almost 600,000 adults who are not regularly active.

·         Low rate of preventable hospitalizations: In the past ten years, the rate of preventable hospitalizations declined 20 percent from 53.6 to 42.9 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollee in the past five years.

·         Low infant mortality rate: Oregon has the second best infant mortality rate compared to the U.S. In the past 5 years, the infant mortality rate declined from 5.9 to 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Oregon’s Challenges

·         High rate of uninsured population: Oregon has a relatively high rate of people who lack health insurance compared to the rest of the U.S. However, the percent of uninsured in the state has declined from 16.8 percent last year to 14.9 percent this year.

·         Low immunization coverage: Oregon ranks 47th in the U.S. for immunization coverage, with 85.7 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months covered.

·         Low per capital public health funding: Oregon ranks 35th in the U.S., with $59 per person in public health funding.


UnitedHealthcare Programs Address Oregon Health Needs

UnitedHealthcare has several programs in place that seek to address the health concerns underscored in this year’s America’s Health Rankings.

·         Wellness incentives: UnitedHealthcare’s offers wellness benefits to both large and small employers in Oregon.  The programs encourage healthy behaviors and target specific health actions using customized information, financial incentives and ongoing support.

·         UnitedHealth HEORES Grants: The UnitedHealth HEROES program provides grants of up to $1,000 to youth-led programs in Oregon that promote activity among children. Awards are given to innovative programs that include a walking element and raise awareness about childhood obesity.

·         Support of community activities: UnitedHealthcare actively promotes and supports initiatives to raise awareness, educate, and improve the cardiovascular health of Oregonians.


Additionally, United Health Foundation is continuing to enhance its website,, with a variety of tools to help individuals make healthy choices, including customizable reports, enhanced social media and other innovative online resources.


Public Health Worker Lillian Shirley advocates for healthy living in Oregon

In his opening commentary to this year’s America’s Health Rankings, Reed Tuckson, M.D., medical advisor, United Health Foundation, and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group, pays tribute to the 450,000 public health workers nationwide who are working on the front lines to promote health and prevent disease. 


UnitedHealthcare echoes this gratitude and thanks the many public health workers in Oregon. In particular, UnitedHealthcare acknowledges the efforts of Lillian Shirley, B.S.N., M.P.H., M.P.A. She was appointed to the Oregon Health Policy Board (OHPB) by the Governor of Oregon in the fall of 2009. During her time on the board, she has demonstrated her commitment to providing access to quality, affordable health care for all Oregonians and to improving population health. In her work on the board she has been essential in successfully guiding health system transformation through the creation of Coordinated Care Organizations.

Coordinated care organizations are network of all types of health care providers (physical health care, addictions and mental health care and sometimes dental care providers) who have agreed to work together in their local communities to serve people who receive health care coverage under the Oregon Health Plan. Her work has helped ensure CCOs are focused on prevention and helping people manage chronic conditions, like diabetes. CCOs serve most of Oregon’s Medicaid clients. Shirley also is director of Multnomah County Health Department, Oregon’s largest local public health agency, serving a population of more than 710,000.


All 50 States: Vermont Still the Healthiest; Mississippi and Louisiana tie for last.

For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The five least healthy states are South Carolina (46), West Virginia (47), Arkansas (48), and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the 49th slot. States that showed the most substantial improvement in rankings include: New Jersey (nine slots), Maryland (five slots), and Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (three slots).


Nationwide: Improved survival rates offset by escalating rates of chronic illness.

This year’s Rankings show that national death rates have improved in several key areas, including:  

  • Premature Death declined 18.0 percent  in the last 23 years, from 8,716 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 7,151 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people in 2012. Premature deaths, like several other metrics, have leveled off in the last decade compared to gains in the 1990s.
  • Cardiovascular Death declined 34.6 percent since 1990, from 405.1 deaths in 1990 to 264.9 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues a relatively constant improvement of 2 percent to 3 percent each year.
  • Cancer Death declined 7.6 percent from 197.5 deaths in 1990 to 182.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the 2012 Edition. This continues to show a more rapid improvement in the last few years than earlier in the century.


However, while the Rankings show notable improvements in survival rates, the quality of these lives are threatened by epidemic rates of preventable chronic illness, including:  

  • Sedentary behavior, which is defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, is at dangerous levels, affecting 26.2 percent of Americans. Rates of sedentary behavior are as high as 35.0 percent of the adult population in Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
  • Obesity is at epidemic proportion. The national median of obese adults is 27.8 percent or 66 million adults – more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. Even the thinnest state, Colorado, has one-fifth of its population obese.
  • Diabetes is also at epidemic proportion. The national median for adults with diabetes is 9.5 percent. This does not include cases of undiagnosed diabetes, which would increase this rate significantly.

To see the Rankings in full, please visit:


About United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings®

America’s Health Rankings® is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.


The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau. The report is reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector.

A key America’s Health Rankings data source – a telephone survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that accounts for seven of the 24 measures in the index – was changed this year to include cell phone-only households as well as a household-weighting process that better reflects increasing diversity within states. As a result of the new techniques, the rates for following seven measures cannot be compared to previous years: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, poor physical health days and poor mental health days.


America’s Health Rankings is the longest running report of its kind. For 23years, the Rankings has provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The Rankings employs a unique methodology, developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars. For more information, please visit


About the United Health Foundation

Guided by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead to better health outcomes and healthier communities. The Foundation also supports activities that expand access to quality health care services for those in challenging circumstances and partners with others to improve the well-being of communities. After its establishment by UnitedHealth Group [NYSE: UNH] in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation, the Foundation has committed more than $200 million to improve health and health care. For additional information, please visit


About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.


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