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West Virginia ranks among bottom five states in annual health report

Staff reports

The Preston County News and Journal

CLARKSBURG, W.Va.  — West Virginia is ranked 46th nationally in terms of overall health, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual report “America’s Health Rankings” for 2017.

This is a three-rank drop for the state, which ranked 43rd in 2016. The state summary for West Virginia in the report highlights a number of health-related changes that have occurred throughout the state in the past several years.

These include: Drug-related deaths have increased 10 percent in the last year; obesity has increased 16 percent and diabetes has increased 25 percent, both over the last five years.

The stated goal of the report is to help improve the overall public health in the U.S.

The data presented by the report is designed to accomplish two major goals, according to foundation officials.

The first is to provide the states with a benchmark, which allows officials to see where they stand in public health, both in general and compared to other states. Second, the report hopes to stimulate action by providing information that can help the states see what changes can be made in order to improve public health.

West Virginia has the lowest rank in a number of categories. The state has the most drug-related deaths among states in 2017 — 35.3 deaths per 100,000 people. It also has the highest rate of obesity, 37.7 percent of adults, and smokers, 24.8 percent of adults. In addition, West Virginia is the lowest ranked state for adults reporting frequent physical and mental distress.

In spite of its No. 1 rank in public health funding, $296 per person, and No. 17 rank in the number of primary-care physicians, 159.6 per 100,000 people, West Virginia ranks 49th in preventable hospitalizations with 75 discharges for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions per 1,000 Medicare enrollees aged 65 and older. According to the report, the preventable hospitalization category highlights the efficiency of a population’s use of primary care, as well as the quality of the primary health care received.

While West Virginia lacks in several areas, there are other categories in which the state is doing well. West Virginia is No. 1 in the excessive drinking category with only 11.8 percent of adults reporting excessive drinking. It is also ranked No. 1 for the infectious disease category, which gives an overall score based on the number of new cases of three infectious diseases, chlamydia, pertussis and salmonella, per 100,000 people.

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