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Pennsylvania in Middle of National Health Rankings

State’s Ranking is Despite Opioid Problem


January 2, 2020

When it comes to healthiness, Pennsylvania finds itself in the middle of the pack and essentially representative of some of the trends happening across the country.

That’s the key finding from America’s Health Rankings, a report released this month by the United Health Foundation that assesses public health on both a nationwide and a state-by-state basis.

The Keystone State finds itself in almost the exact same spot it was nearly 30 years ago. Its No. 28 ranking among the 50 states for 2019 is two spots down from where it ranked in the initial report released in 1990 and one down from its 2000 and 2010 rankings.

“Many health issues that were concerning in 1990 remain so today, and additional issues have arisen that require action now,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare. “America’s Health Rankings will continue to provide evolving state and national snapshots of health to inform and drive action to build healthier communities.”

The report ranks states on 35 health measures, such as drug-related deaths, air pollution statistics, immunization data, number of health care providers and health disparities.

Among the findings, Pennsylvania has seen its percentage of smokers decline by nearly a quarter – from 22.4 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2019. That nearly mirrors the national trend.

However, while fewer people are smoking, the drug epidemic is rising in the state. In just the past year alone, deaths due to drug use spiked 25 percent as the state reported 35.1 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s also 185 percent higher than the 2007 totals.

Nationally, the state’s drug death rate ranked 47th nationally. That tied for the state’s lowest rating, along with its air pollution rating.

The report also noted Pennsylvania had a statistically significant change in premature deaths, defined at those dying before age 75. In just one year, the number of those deaths – nearly 8,200 per 100,000 people – jumped two percent.


One area where Pennsylvania is strong is in the number of primary care physicians. With more than 216 per 100,000 people, the state ranked fifth nationally.

The state, though, ranks 33rd in terms of mental health providers, with more than 206 per 100,000 people. However, over the past two years, the number of mental health professionals have risen by 13 percent, according to the study.

Other areas where the state posted high marks was in the percentage of uninsured. With only 5.5 percent without health insurance, Pennsylvania ranked ninth nationally.

That may also help account for the small disparity in health among adults with a high school education and those who did not complete high school. The state ranked eighth there.

Among neighboring states, Pennsylvania, again, landed in the middle. New Jersey was its highest ranked neighbor, finishing seventh, while New York rated 11th and Maryland finished 17th. Delaware ranked 30th, Ohio was 38th and West Virginia came in 45th.


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