West Virginia is not feeling very well. If our state went to the doctor and was asked about our symptoms, there would be a long list.
The United Health Foundation (UHF) has released its 2021 annual report of America’s Health Rankings. The report “examines 81 measures from 30 unique data sources to understand the impact that social, economic, environmental and other factors have on health.”
Unfortunately, West Virginia is at or near the bottom in several categories. One of our worst rankings is “health outcomes.” The Mountain State ranks 47th of the 50 states. (Massachusetts is first and Louisiana is 50th.)
West Virginia’s poor outcomes are driven by a greater percentage of the population with multiple chronic conditions such as heart, kidney and lung disease, cancer, asthma and arthritis, and elevated risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
The state also ranks 50th in the categories of depression, premature death and drug deaths. Notably, West Virginia ranks ahead of every other state for the least problem with excessive drinking.
West Virginia also rates poorly on social and economic factors. The state has greater economic hardship and more occupational fatalities per capita than nearly every other state. We also rank near the bottom in per capita income, food insecurity and social support and engagement.
If there was a health mission statement for our state it might be, “We need to get more exercise.” The UHF “behaviors” category ranks West Virginia 49th in nutrition and physical activity. (Vermont ranks first and Louisiana is 50th.)
According to the findings, most of us don’t eat right, engage in enough physical activity, or get enough sleep. Our tobacco use rate really hurts us in this category. The report has West Virginia with the highest smoking rate of all states.
West Virginia scores better in the categories of physical environment (36th) and clinical care (35th). The state ranks 42nd of the 50 states when all five categories are averaged. That is lower than the five surrounding states: Ohio, 36; Kentucky, 34; Pennsylvania, 30; Virginia, 14; Maryland, 11.)
Governor Justice likes to say West Virginia is on an economic rocket ship ride. Justice is given to hyperbole, but several economic indicators are headed in the right direction. Additionally, the economic picture has brightened with recent job-creation announcements.
However, when it comes to our physical and mental well-being, West Virginia is still on the launch pad.