Breaking
June 21, 2024

Many Southern States Struggle with Poor Health Outcomes

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Jan 16, 2024

According to several recent studies and reports, many states in the Southern United States are facing major health challenges and have some of the unhealthiest populations in the country. States like West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas consistently rank near the bottom on measures of chronic health conditions, health behaviors, and healthcare access.

West Virginia Ranks Last in National Health Study

West Virginia ranked last overall for health in a recent analysis by Forbes Advisor. The report looked at several factors including diet, fitness, access to health services, smoking rates, air pollution, drug-related deaths, life expectancy, and more. Key findings for West Virginia include:

  • Highest rates of drug overdose deaths and smoking
  • High levels of air pollution
  • Low access to mental health providers
  • Shortest life expectancy (74.8 years vs 79.1 national average)

Del. Todd Longanacre, chair of West Virginia’s Public Health Committee, responded to the report saying:

“We have long understood the health struggles and disparities facing our residents. Poverty, lack of health services, and the opioid crisis all contribute to poor outcomes. This report reinforces the need for a coordinated policy approach to build healthier communities.”

Southern States Consistently Ranked Least Healthy

The ten states with the poorest health rankings in the Forbes study were all located in the South and Midwest regions. States across the South face higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, hypertension and diabetes compared to other regions.

For example, a study by WGN9 found that nearly 40% of adults in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia reported no physical activity outside of work over the past month. High smoking rates are also an issue, with over 20% of adults classified as smokers in many Southern states compared to just 11% in states like California and Utah.

State % Adults Obese % Smokers Diabetes Rate Life Expectancy
Mississippi 39.5% 21.1% 12.9% 74.9 years
Arkansas 35.7% 23.1% 11.2% 76.1 years
Louisiana 36.8% 22.4% 12.1% 75.6 years

Data from American Community Survey, Forbes Healthiest States Study

These health struggles lead to billions in associated healthcare costs and lost productivity across the region.

Financial Barriers Limit Access to Care

Lack of health insurance and access to affordable care appears to be a significant obstacle across Southern states. States like Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina have among the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country.

Rural hospitals are also closing at high rates in the South – nearly half of all rural hospital closures from 2013-2023 have been in Southern states. This limits access to essential health services for many communities. Mississippi currently has the fewest physicians per capita in the U.S.

Nonprofit health leaders across the South are calling for expanded Medicaid to improve healthcare access for uninsured and low-income residents:

“The research clearly shows that states that expanded Medicaid have experienced better health outcomes and reduced disparities in access to care. We urgently need policies that will remove barriers and connect more patients to vital services.”

Looking Ahead – Initiatives Seek Health Improvements

In response to these ongoing health struggles, many Southern states have launched new initiatives and are investing in community health partnerships aimed at driving change. These include:

Tennessee – The TN Together initiative brings over 150 organizations together to promote healthier behaviors and lifestyles. New grant funding will support evidence-based health programs focused areas like smoking cessation, diabetes management, and physical activity.

Arkansas – Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently announced the Healthy Arkansas plan focused on preventative health and wellness. The $100 million proposal provides funding for school health coordinators, food access programs, and mobile health clinics targeting rural areas. Public health experts have praised the plan’s focus on addressing root causes impacting Arkansans.

Mississippi – Lawmakers approved $20 million towards the Healthy Futures Fund to support partnerships improving nutrition access and promoting active lifestyles across Mississippi. Partners include schools, local health departments, community health centers and the MS Department of Health.

While Southern states still face major health hurdles, collaborative efforts focused on prevention, education, nutrition and wellness provide hope for creating healthier communities over the long-term. Expanding healthcare access will also be key to enabling patients to better manage chronic conditions. Continued data analysis paired with sustained, equitable funding for new health initiatives can help drive transformations and lift Southern states up in future health rankings.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post