Minnesota is the sixth healthiest state for women and children, according to the United Health Foundation’s 2019 “America’s Health Rankings Health of Women and Children Report,” which was released last week.
That’s a good ranking relative to the other 49 states, although it’s one slot lower than last year.
The report, which used 60 different health metrics to determine its rankings, doesn’t cite any specific factors that caused Minnesota to fall from fifth to sixth place, but it does point to three “challenges” facing the state:
- A high prevalence of excessive drinking among women aged 18 to 44
- A high cost of infant child care
- A low prevalence of children with adequate health insurance.
A report also notes that immunization among Minnesota’s children aged 19 to 35 months dropped by 10 percent in the past year, from 73.8 percent to 66.1 percent.
Minnesota’s three major areas of “strengths,” according the report, are the following:
- High flu vaccination coverage among women
- A low prevalence of infants born with a low birth weight
- A high percentage of children and teenagers who live in “supportive neighborhoods” (defined as “neighborhoods where people help each other, watch out for each other’s children and know where to go for help in the community”)
The report also highlights these specific positive trends influencing the health of Minnesota’s women and children:
- During the past year, the percentage of infants exclusively breastfed for six months increased 23 percent, from 30.2 percent to 37.2 percent.
- During the past year, tobacco use during pregnancy fell 14 percent, from 9.4 percent to 8.1 percent.
- During the past three years, immunization for meningitis among children aged 13 to 17 years rose 16 percent, from 75.5 percent to 87.5 percent.
- During the past three years, smoking among women aged 18 to 44 decreased 20 percent, from 18.8 percent to 15.1 percent.
- During the past three years, tobacco use among young people aged 12 to 17 years fell 31 percent, from 7.5 percent to 5.2 percent.
For Minnesota to pull itself into first place in the rankings, however, it would have to improve on those trends. Specifically, the report says the state would need to lower its rates of the following:
- women who binge drink
- women who smoke during pregnancy
- babies born with low birth weight
- women between the ages of 15 and 44 who die of drug overdoses
- women who die during childhood and pregnancy
- teens who have babies
- teens who die of suicide
All the states ranked ahead of Minnesota in this year’s report are in New England. Rhode Island is cited as the healthiest state for women and children, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.
The least healthy state for women and children in the report is Mississippi, followed by Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Nevada.
Minnesota’s neighboring states are all within the top half of the rankings. Iowa is ranked 10th; North Dakota, 15th; Wisconsin, 19th; and South Dakota, 23rd.
New York is cited as having made the most progress on women and children’s health since last year’s report, jumping up six slots in the rankings, from 19th to 13th. Other states that made big upward climbs in the rankings are Maine (up five slots) and Maryland, Missouri and New Jersey (up four slots each).
The states that dropped the most in the rankings are Nebraska and Washington, each falling six slots, to 28th and 17th, respectively.
This year report highlights several troubling national trends regarding the health of women and children, specifically increases in the rates of teen suicide, child mortality and maternal mortality among African-American mothers. According to the report
- The U.S. teen suicide rate has risen a staggering 25 percent over the past three years, from 8.4 to 10.5 deaths per 100,000 teens aged 15 to 19.
- The U.S. child mortality rate increased 6 percent for children aged 1 to 19 over the past three years — “an especially concerning trend after declines since 1980,” the report points out.
- The maternal mortality rate in the United States is highest among African-American women, at 63.8 deaths per 100,000 lives births. That’s 3.8 time higher than the lowest rate, which is among Asian/Pacific Islander women.
The report also emphasizes a few positive national trends. Tobacco smoking has fallen by 12 percent among women during the past three years, as have teen births (by 22 percent). Also, almost 1.3 million more women aged 18 to 44 received the flu vaccine last year than in 2016 — an increase of 5 percent.