For the second consecutive year, Minnesota is the healthiest state in the country.
That is the major finding of the annual health rankings published by the United Health Foundation. Being ranked number one is nothing new for Minnesota. We have been first or second every year since 1990 and first in 10 of those years. It might sound like boasting, but we deserve it. Minnesota sets the standard for taking care of its citizens and we should be proud.
Looking at the rankings tells us what we are doing right and where we can improve. Let’s first look at what we excel at.
We have the largest percentage of citizens with health insurance: 91.1 percent. This is up slightly from last year. Just for a comparison, Texas ranks lowest with only 75 percent of its residents having health care.
Minnesotans also have healthy hearts. Our state had the fewest cardiovascular deaths last year, a feat we also accomplished in 2004.
Our child poverty rate ranks third, meaning only two states have fewer children living in poverty. With only 9 percent this year, we are continuing a positive trend of fewer and fewer children in poverty. In 1990, our rate reached 21.2 percent, an unacceptable number.
The drop in child poverty can be directly traced to a 23 percent drop in teen pregnancies since 1991. According to the report, if our teen pregnancy rate had not dropped, we would have an additional 9 percent of children living in poverty.
Now the challenges. Twenty-one percent of Minnesotans smoke, which leads to a number of health problems. The good news here is that we are making progress, even though it may not be as fast as we might like.
We also have a relatively low-number of women receiving adequate pre-natal care. We rank 27th in the country with about 75 percent of expecting mothers receiving adequate care. Again there is a bit of good news – we are steadily improving this number. It should be a focus of the health care industry.
Perhaps the most unacceptable statistic is our infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic blacks. It is a shameful 10.8 percent, more than double the infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic whites. We need to reach out to those who cannot afford or do not have access to the health care their infants need and we have to encourage a healthy living environment for newborn babies.
There are so many things we do right in terms of health care that it would be easy rest on our laurels and ignore what we need to improve. We shouldn’t do that. We should look at our tactics that are working and apply them to areas where we fail. Minnesota is so successful in so many areas that I believe we can hold on to our number one ranking for years to come, as long as we keep working to get better.