Virginia improves in national health report ranking

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia was among three states that showed marked improvement in public health from 2018 to 2019, according to a report by a national health nonprofit that ranks states based on a host of factors.

The commonwealth’s rank rose from 20th to 15th, joining Alaska and Wyoming as the only states to improve by five spots.

America’s Health Rankings, which has been published every year since 1990, bills itself as the “longest running state-by-state analysis of the nation’ health” and compares states based on dozens of data points, from rates of suicide, smoking, obesity and sexually transmitted disease to infant mortality, drug overdoes, violent crime and air pollution, among others.

Among the findings:

  • In the past three years, drug deaths increased 52% from 10.1 to 15.4 deaths per 100,000 population.
  • Since 2012, smoking decreased 29% from 20.9% to 14.9% of adults.
  • Since 2003, air pollution decreased 49% from 13.5 to 6.9 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter.
  • In the past year, chlamydia increased 6% from 473.2 to 500.3 cases per 100,000 population.
  • In the past four years, frequent mental distress increased 21% from 10.0% to 12.1% of adults.
  • Since 1990, infant mortality decreased 44% from 10.6 to 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In a statement, the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association said the gains are “a testament to the work of many stakeholders who are dedicated to improving public health and wellbeing,” adding that Virginia’s hospitals and health systems “have been among the leaders in this effort and are committed to the goal of making the commonwealth the healthiest state in the nation.”