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Studies find Minnesota is among the healthiest states in the U.S.

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A pair of studies released this week have found Minnesota to be among the healthiest states in the nation.

The state has gone up two places to 4th in the United Health Foundation's "2015 America Health Rankings," and it finished 1st (jointly with Vermont) for the second year in a row in the Commonwealth Fund's survey of State Health Systems.

Why are Minnesotans getting healthier? Well according to the United Health survey it's because it now has fewer people without health insurance, and in the past year there's been a reduced number of cardiovascular deaths, such as those caused by heart disease or strokes.

This could be down to a combination of an increase in the regular physical activity adults have been doing, as well as a decrease in the proportion of adult smokers, which fell from 18.8 percent to 16.3 percent over the past two years.

Over the past 25 years, the cardiovascular death rate has almost halved in Minnesota, falling from 350.6 to 186.5 per 100,000 population.

Minnesota also has the 5th lowest rate of drug-related deaths in the country.

In the Commonwealth Fund's survey, states were judged on 42 measures across five categories that covers health care access, quality, costs, equity and outcomes, with Minnesota the only state that ranked in the top quarter in all areas.

One of the areas Minnesota finished 1st in was "healthy lives," with the study finding Minnesotans have healthier habits than those in other states, with lower smoking and obesity rates, and fewer people dying prematurely.

Where does Minnesota score badly?

It's been reported for many years now that Minnesota has a drinking problem, at least when compared to other states, and the America Health Rankings highlights this as one of the "challenges" facing the state.

Minnesota has the 7th highest level of "excessive drinking" by states, with many of the states with the worst ranking found in the Midwest – with neighbors North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa having the 1st, 2nd and 3rd highest levels respectively.

The report also found that Minnesota has a lower per capita level of public health funding than other states, and also has a low immunization rate among teenage males against the HPV virus, the most common sexually-transmitted disease in the United States.

The Commonwealth report saw Minnesota score low in a few categories, including 47th for "home health patients whose wounds improved or healed after an operation," and 45th for "children with a medical and dental preventive visit in the past year."

David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, suggests that states in the Midwest and Northeast tend to have better health potentially because they have more "activist governments."

"They tend to provide more authority to government to undertake campaigns in favor of childhood immunization, for example," he told the Pioneer Press. "That's one of the things we have found over time. They've also tended to expand coverage and to have lower insurance rates."

The healthiest state in the 2015 America Health Rankings was Hawaii, followed by Vermont.

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