Nevadans are among the nation’s most unhealthy | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevadans are among the nation’s most unhealthy

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nevada’s new health report card is out and it isn’t good, with the state ranking 46th nationally in an insurance company survey.

Lifestyles, access to health care, disease and mortality were considered in the study conducted by the nation’s second largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group.

Unhealthy personal choices and the lack of a coordinated campaign to get Nevadans to take responsibility for their health contribute largely to the state’s poor health, said Dr. Mary Guinan, the state’s health officer.

”Behavior is something we really haven’t invested in as a state. We really haven’t invested in prevention. That’s what we need to concentrate on,” said Guinan.

The good news is that could change, Guinan said. For the first time, state and local health authorities are working together and with the public to create a list of health priorities and goals for 2010.

Ideally, the Nevada initiative will lead to increased funding for prevention programs, Guinan said.

Overall, the report found the country’s population is healthier than it was 10 years ago, a fact UnitedHealth attributes to such things as reductions in infant mortality and lower prevalence of smoking.

”It is noteworthy that most of the improvements in health over the last decade are the result of public health measures and did not result from individual action taken because of a visit with the doctor or a period in hospital,” UnitedHealth’s senior vice president, Dr. Lee Newcomer, said in a written release.

Below Nevada in this year’s report, in descending order, are South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. The healthiest state is Minnesota followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Vermont.

While Nevada’s rankings are generally low, the state has improved somewhat from 1996 when it was last among all the states in overall healthiness. Rankings are done by a formula that includes weighting some factors, such as smoking, more than others.

With 30.4 percent of Nevadans lighting up regularly in 1998 the state ranks second highest in prevalence of smokers – just below Kentucky, the report says.

Other factors lowering the state’s average life span include ranking No. 5 in percentage of fatal car accidents per population in 1998. Nevada’s consistently high suicide rates, though not part of the report, may also contribute, Guinan said.