The United Health Foundation has ranked Delaware 32nd in the nation for overall health.
Delaware still falls behind other states when it comes to overall health. But an annual national report on the nation’s health shows the First State making small improvements to climb the wellbeing ladder.
Last week the United Health Foundation reported Delaware ranks 32nd among all U.S. states in overall health, according to its annual America’s Health Rankings report.
Paul Silverman, public health associate deputy director for the Department of Health and Social Services, said the health department doesn’t pay too much attention to rankings because they don’t always paint a full and accurate picture of a state.
“We welcome these rankings, it’s an opportunity to talk about these things, but as a general rule we’re not a big fan of rankings, although we know it’s something a lot of people follow. But they are really of limited practical value,” Silverman said.
The United Health Foundation produces the report to provide data to stakeholders who can use the information to effect change in a state or nationally.
Despite its low rankings, Delaware has jumped up three spots from last year. The report attributes this to several strengths in the state.
According to the report, more residents have health insurance than previous years. In addition, infant mortality, cancer deaths and air pollution rates have decreased over the past several years.
Delaware still has its challenges, however.
The report shows that Delaware faces a shortage of dentists with only 45.4 per 100,000 residents—the fourth lowest rate in the nation. The state also has seen an increase in chlamydia with 568 cases per 100,000 residents, ranking at 45th. Silverman said these statistics are not surprising.
Obesity and diabetes also threaten public health, with more than 30 percent of adults who are obese and more than 11 percent diagnosed with diabetes.
Silverman said the decrease in smoking is a result of policies like the Clean Indoor Air Act, and education. In the case of cancer, the quality of medical care provided in the state has improved, he said. One of the most important factors contributing to the infant mortality rate is the understanding that the health of mothers prior to becoming pregnant plays a role in infant mortality.
“Cancer is still the second cause of death in Delaware. One out of five people still smoke and that’s still too much,” Silverman said.
“In a way that’s another reason why these rankings are of limited value. We could rank high or low in something, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. it’s good to see some things are improving, but we still need to do more.”