California jumped five spots in 2018 national health rankings over 2017
America’s Health Rankings’ 2018 annual report, which evaluates health state-by-state, ranked California the 12th-healthiest state in the nation. That’s the highest ranking California has earned in the report’s 29-year history and a five-spot jump from its ranking in 2017; the jump makes California’s the second-biggest improvement in rank for the year.
The 12th-place overall ranking derives from California’s performance on 35 markers, which are reported under five broad categories: behaviors, community & environment, policy, clinical care and outcomes. California’s rankings across markers and categories varied widely, ranging from second-place rankings for a few markers, and last-place rankings in two others.
California earned its strongest rankings for its low prevalence of obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity — those three markers all fall under “behaviors,” bringing its ranking for that category to second in the country, despite a couple below-average rankings for excessive drinking and high school graduation rates.
It also earned high marks for premature death (a measurement of the number of potential years lost before age 75), low rates of occupational fatalities, low infant-mortality rates, and for the relatively high number of dentists per 100,000 Californians.
However, the state ranked last in the nation in two categories: disparity in health status and air pollution. The disparity in health status marker was based on CDC data on the difference between the percentage of adults with a high school education versus those without who reported their health as “very good or excellent.”
California’s low ranking for its high rate of exposure of the general public to air pollution contributed to its 40th-place ranking for the “community & environment” category overall.
Other challenges for the state included in the report were low rates of childhood immunizations and low rates of adolescents with Tdap immunizations. Diving into each of those markers shows that the challenges were especially present for children and adolescents living below the poverty line versus above, and for Hispanic children and adolescents versus white.
The report also details some trends in health markers over time. For California, noted positive trends included: high school graduation increased 9 percent in the past five years; children in poverty decreased 24 percent over the past five years; the percentage of uninsured Californians decreased 61 percent in the past 10 years; and infant mortality decreased 19 percent in the past 10 years. The one negative trend noted in the state overview was that diabetes increased 18 percent in the past six years in California.