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Mass residents second healthiest in U.S.

Julie M. Donnelly

Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 2:42pm EST - Last Modified: Monday, December 13, 2010, 6:00am EST

Massachusetts has ranked number two in a national study of health status.

The 2010 America’s Health Rankings, put out by the United Health Foundation, found that Massachusetts residents are slimmer and smoke less than in other states. Obesity, at 21.8 percent, is below most other states, and the incidence of smoking has dropped to 14.9% from 18.5 percent five years ago. Massachusetts was also applauded for low rates of occupational fatalities and infant mortality, in addition to low rates of uninsured residents, thanks to the 2006 health reform law.

But it’s not all good news. Massachusetts has a high rate of binge drinking, and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations. The rate of children living in poverty has risen to 16.7 percent from 10.1 percent over the past five years and the rate of obesity, though lower than other states, has more than doubled over the past 20 years.

Nationally, the study found that overall health improved one percentage point last year. But reductions, across the country, in smoking, preventable hospitalizations and infectious disease were offset by continued increases in obesity, children in poverty, and lack of health insurance. The report also shows a 19 percent increase since 2005 in the percentage of adults who had been diagnosed with diabetes.

The healthiest state for the fourth year running is Vermont, according to the study. Massachusetts was ranked third last year and has been in the top ten for almost 20 years.

Mississippi is ranked 50th.

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