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December 06, 2011

Vermont is the Healthiest State in the Nation... Again

Health-rankingsThe United Health Foundation has just released the 2011 edition of America's Health Rankings, and once again, Vermont comes out on top as the healthiest state in the country.

If you feel like you've heard this before, it might be because Vermont has claimed a sort of health-ranking dominance in the past few years. Our state has come out on top in four out of the past five years, and hasn't finished lower than fourth since 2002. Vermont hasn't always been on top of the heap, languishing between positions 10 and 20 in the 1990s before shooting up to the top in the aughts.

Why is Vermont so healthy? The United Health Foundation credits Vermont's high rates of both early prenatal care and graduation from high school, coupled with few infectious diseases and violent crimes. Vermont's love of local, healthy food helps (#1 in the Diet, Fruit & Vegetables ranking), as do the seemingly bottomless opportunities for active outdoor recreation (#2 in the Physical Activity ranking). Oh, and there are no Chick-fil-A restaurants in Vermont. Just sayin'.

We're not completely in the clear, though. The United Health Foundation warns that Vermont ranks highly for binge drinking, and that immunization coverage could be a lot better. (See "Health Care Providers Take a Shot at Increasing Immunizations," from the November 2 issue of Seven Days.)

Overall, New England had a good showing in the health rankings. New Hampshire came in second, and the rest of the New England states all landed in the top 10. Mississippi has the dubious distinction of being named the country's least healthy state, with Louisiana not far behind. You can see each state's breakdown visually on this cool interactive map.

Below, check out an infographic designed by the United Health Foundation, breaking down the key numbers in Vermont's state health ranking.


What's the best way to make Vermont even healthier? How about taking a look at its biggest polluters?

This link above shows the #1 polluter in Vermont is Burlington's own McNeil biomass power incinerator, which burns 30 cords of wood an hour at 25% efficiency, spewing air pollutants into the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Vermont.

The 4 new large scale biomass power proposals across the state--the Fair Haven facility is moving the quickest--are looking to try to unseat McNeil from its dirty throne.

Who will win the honor of biggest Vermont polluter? Keep ignoring the issue of biomass power incineration and we'll find out soon enough!

Quick, someone please tell Shawn Shouldice and the National Federation of Independent Business.

This distinction for Vermont is the work of former Gov. Douglas and his strict oatmeal for breakfast diet. Jim and I agreed on many issues, but not the oatmeal for breakfast chronologies that have led to this distinction for Vt.
Yes this post is oatmeal in cheek.

To make Vermont even healthier, focus on our biggest health problem: 23.9% obesity and type II diabetes with it's concomitant diseases (e.g. cardiovascular, blindness & kidney failure). Since most type II diabetes is preventable and curable by diet and nutrition (vs prescription drugs) it is hard to conceive of a more fertile area to have a statewide goal to cut incidence by half in a few years. This would cut healthcare costs for all Vermonters significantly and raise the quality of life for diabetics. We need our doctors to counsel patients more aggressively with recently developed protocols for dietary treatment which have been very successful when applied. Vermont physicians should take up this challenge and establish best practices and training to their peers.

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