Just in time for finals and the end of the semester, America’s Health Rankings just published their 2017 Annual Report, so it’s time to see which areas Montana is head of the class, and where we need to work a little harder in order to be among the healthiest states in the land. (I’m not a competitive person at all 😉 )

Montana ranks this year as the 22nd healthiest state, up from #23 last year. Hey, we’ll take the improvement, but there’s still a lot more to do. I mean, North Dakota beat us y’all. C’mon.

Top 5: 1. Massachusetts. 2. Hawaii. 3. Vermont. 4. Utah. 5. Connecticut.

Other western states in the Top-10 include Colorado (#7), and Washington (#9).

Bottom Tier: The entire south, including my homeland of Arkansas (#48), and West Virginia.

The annual rankings are based on six broad categories which include 35 total health-related  sub-categories.  Let’s take a look at some highlights and needs-improvement areas for Montana in each category.  Keep in mind, lower rankings are better (1-50 scale, with 1 the best and 50 the worst).

Behaviors (#16)

Head of the Class: Obesity. We rank 6th in adult obesity, with a rate of 25.5%. The national average is a scary 29.9% (an all-time high), and rates across the south average in the mid-to-high 30s.

Head of the Class: Physical Inactivity. We rank 10th in this category. 19.9% of adults reported doing no physical activity or exercise other than their jobs in a 30 day period. The national average is 23.1%. My Montana Moves High Five reflect this philosophy: Move more, sit less; Play Outside, Have Fun. 

Needs Improvement: Smoking and Excessive Drinking. These two categories are a big reason Montana is not in the Top-20 or better when it comes to the overall rankings. We rank 44th in excessive drinking, with 1-in-5 adults reporting either binge drinking or chronic drinking in a 30 day period.  With smoking, we’re 33rd, with 18.5% reporting smoking every or some days.

Community & Environment (#23)

Head of the Class: Air Pollution. What a blessing to live in a state with clean air. We’re #9 in this one. Now if we could only get those wildfires under control…

Needs Improvement: Pertussis. We rank 49th in incidence of whooping cough. This one’s linked to immunizations—stay tuned for this in the next category.

Policy (#41)

This category really hurt our overall ranking, and it has everything to do with immunization rates.

Head of the Class: Public Health Funding. Montana comes in at #11 with $111 state dollars per person dedicated to public health. The federal government gives $86 per person through the CDC and Health Resources Services.

Needs Improvement: Child Immunization. We’re #48, with only 63.6% of young children receiving recommended immunizations for infectious diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, polio, influenza, etc.  Adolescent Immunization rank isn’t much better, at #43.

Clinical Care (#19)

Head of the Class: (Tie—close enough) Preventable Hospitalizations (#13), Low Birthweight (#14), Mental Health Providers (#16), Dentists (#19).

Needs Improvement: Primary Care Physicians. We rank 44th with only 113 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. The national average is 149. More physicians means more access to care, and more personal, high-quality care.

Outcomes (#12)

Head of the Class: Diabetes. We rank 5th, with only 8.1% of adults being diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a huge driver of healthcare cost, and can lead to many negative heath outcomes, so to rank so high here is awesome.  Kudos to our friends at Take Control, for all they do to help with this one.

Head of the Class: Disparity in Health Status. This category measures how education impacts self-reported health status.  In Montana, it doesn’t as much as it does elsewhere. We’re #7.

Need’s Improvement: Premature Death (#36), and Frequent Physical Distress (#30).  The measure for premature death is a little hard to wrap my head around, so I’m just going to trust that we can do better. Whereas 12.1% of adults reported their physical health was not good 14 or more days in a 30-day period.

Montana’s Top drivers of positive and negative health outcomes.

The sub-categories that impacted Montana in the most positive ways statistically were:

  1. Air Pollution (#9)
  2. Obesity (#6)
  3. Disparity in Health Status (#7)
  4. Diabetes (#5)

The sub-categories that impacted Montana in the most negative ways statistically were:

  1. Child Immunizations (#48)
  2. Pertussis (#49)
  3. Primary Care Physicians (#44)
  4. Smoking (#33)

If you’re a statistics and numbers nerd like me, and want to delve into the report yourself, just click on the links in the introduction of this article. There’s so much great info packed in there.

So Montana, are we up to the challenge of cracking into the Top 20 in 2018?  I think we can do it. Let’s prove we’re the Last Best Place.

Be Well!


2 thoughts on “2017 Montana Report Card

  1. Neal Very interesting-Thanks for the compilation of Montana’s efforts and results. I’m sure our MUS Wellness programs elevated our awareness of all matters concerning healthy lifestyles. Programs that help us set goals and accomplish those goals on a daily basis have to have an impact on “statistics”. Anything that helps reduce the cost of healthcare overall is so very important. Thanks to you and Kristin for keeping us informed, active and motivated throughout the year, and looking forward to new programs next year. PEACE, Myke

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