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Maryland places 18th on annual health rankings

Daniel Leaderman//December 15, 2015

Maryland places 18th on annual health rankings

By Daniel Leaderman

//December 15, 2015

A new report praises Maryland for its low prevalence of smoking and low percentage of children in poverty, ranking the state 18th in the country for the overall health of its population.

But the state slipped two places from last year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report, published by the United Health Foundation.

A 10 percent increase in drug-related deaths – from 12.2 to 13.4 per 100,000 people – and a decrease in physical activity among adults contributed to the drop, according to the report.

Maryland also received low marks for health disparities among people with different education levels, highlighting the need for greater health literacy, said Irene Myers-Thompson, regional wellness director for UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic.

Marylanders need to approach health care more as informed consumers — researching their benefits and what questions to ask a doctor — rather than just being patients, Myers-Thompson said.

But the state has also made progress: In the past two years, Maryland saw a 31 percent drop in the number of residents without health insurance, from 13.1 percent of the state’s population to 9 percent.

Cancer deaths have also dropped 15 percent since 1990, and the state boasts 183.7 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, the second-highest rate in the country.

Maryland’s high marks for tobacco usage reflect successful increases in the tax on cigarettes in past years, said health care advocate Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition.

Tax hikes in 1999, 2002 and 2008 have all been followed by decreases in cigarette sales, DeMarco said, adding that he’ll be advocating another $1.00 per-pack increase in the coming legislative session.

That increase could raise an additional $92.8 million annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Smoking has decreased and remained below the national average in recent years, with 14.6 percent of Maryland adults smoking in 2015 compared to 18.1 percent nationally, according to the report.

Changes to the state’s method of funding hospitals – which now encourages a focus on preventive care – have begun do address disparities. Hospitals and health systems are working with community groups and faith-based organizations to increase access to primary and chronic care, DeMarco said.

“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing right,” he said.

The highest-ranked state in this year’s report is Hawaii, which earned praise for its low rates of obesity and preventable hospitalizations but still had a high prevalence of excessive drinking.  The lowest-ranked state was Louisiana, which had high prevalence of smoking and obesity as well as a high percentage of children living in poverty.


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