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000802_c547_0022_clhsRISMEDIA, November 19, 2009—If you want to be healthy, live in Vermont—or at least act like you do. It is the healthiest state in the country, according to a new report from the nonprofit United Health Foundation. The annual ranking looks at 22 indicators of health, including everything from how many children receive recommended vaccinations, to obesity and smoking rates, to cancer deaths. (The foundation is funded by the insurer UnitedHealth Group).

Vermont ranked first this year thanks in part to its low rate of obesity, high number of doctors and a low rate of child poverty. New England in general sets a benchmark for the country, the report found. All six New England states are in the top 10. These states have favorable demographics and an excellent public health infrastructure, including a large number of doctors per capita.

Eight of the 10 bottom-ranked states are from the south, with Mississippi coming in dead last for the ninth consecutive year. Mississippi has a sky-high death rate from heart disease and high infant mortality. In general, residents of these states are more likely to be smokers or to be obese, the report found. They also have worse health insurance coverage, fewer physicians per capita and live in areas with high violent crime and more child poverty.

UnitedHealth Group Executive Vice President Dr. Reed Tuckson says the report is meant to draw attention to public health issues, particularly the twin challenges of smoking and obesity. While the smoking rate has decreased in the past 20 years, nearly one in five Americans still smoke. More than one-quarter of American adults suffer from obesity, a condition that the report estimated will cost $344 billion in annual health care costs by 2018. “We are about to deliver a tsunami of preventable chronic illness that will come pouring into the medical care delivery system,” says Reed.

The top 10 states on the healthiest list include:

1. Vermont
2. Utah
3. Massachusetts
4. Hawaii
5. New Hampshire
6. Minnesota
7. Connecticut
8. Colorado
9. Maine
10. Rhode Island

For more information, visit www.forbes.com.

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