Last week the United Health Foundation released its annual America’s Health Rankings report, showing Arkansas’ ranking for overall health has improved two places, to number 46 among the 50 states.
The jump is the first for Arkansas since it climbed from 49th to 48th in 2015. Arkansas was 47th in 2011 and has ranked only as high as 40th, in 2009, since the turn of the century. Arkansas was also 40th in 1993.
Strengths highlighted in this year’s report indicate Arkansas saw the improvement from number 48 because of a low prevalence of excessive drinking and low rate of drug deaths; a decline in children in poverty and a drop in air pollution.
Cancer, cardiovascular, and premature death rates; smoking rates; and a lack of physical activity are the major drawbacks, according to the report.
Arkansas was number 47 for the rate of cancer and cardiovascular deaths and it ranked 45th in premature death, with increases experienced in all three in recent years.
Over a 25-year period cancer deaths have increased from 209.6 to 218.6 per 100,000 people, the report notes. In just five years cardiovascular deaths have increased from 311.7 to 330.2 per 100,000. And, in just four years, the premature death rate, defined as prior to age 75, has climbed from 9,656 to 10,099 per 100,000.
Arkansas also ranked 46th for senior health and 49th for women’s health.
The state’s infant mortality rate of 7.8 per 1,000 live births, drew a ranking of 46th and was double the number of deaths of the top state in the nation.
More than 22 percent, about two in nine, Arkansans smoke, ranking the state number 46 for that measure.
Additionally, Arkansans are among the least physically active in the nation. The state ranks number 48 for inactivity and number 44 for obesity. With 16.4 percent of the state’s population in frequent physical distress, Arkansas ranked number 45.
With 17.3 percent in frequent mental distress, Arkansas ranked 49th. However the state ranked 27th in the number of mental health providers.
Arkansas did score well, number 8, for a low prevalence of excessive drinking and came in at number 14 for drug deaths.
The report shows that over over the past five years, children in poverty decreased 21 percent from 28.5 to 22.5 percent. However, the state still ranked 44th.
With 7.1 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter in the air, in the last three years air pollution has dropped 27 percent, according to the report. Arkansas ranked 16th.
An 87 percent high school graduation rate for the state drew a 17th place ranking.