A recent study by Forbes Advisor ranked states across the US based on the overall health of their populations. The rankings took into account factors like rates of chronic illnesses, obesity, physical activity levels, fruit and vegetable consumption, and access to health care.
Southern States Rank Poorly
Many of the states that fared the worst in the new health rankings are located in the South. West Virginia ranked last, followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Kentucky in the top 5 least healthy states. Other Southern states like Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia also landed in the bottom 10.
Experts pointed to high poverty rates and poor lifestyle habits as key reasons for the low health ratings in the South. “The South has long struggled with some of the highest obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates,” said Dr. Michelle Williams, a health policy researcher. “Preventative health care and education around nutrition and exercise are sorely needed.”
The poor health of Southern populations not only impacts quality of life, but also puts economic strain on states already struggling financially. Medical care and lost productivity due to illness and disability drain state resources.
As Dr. Williams noted, “Improving health has to be part of the strategy for economic development in many Southern states.” Public health initiatives and promotion of better lifestyle habits may yield economic benefits over the long-term.
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