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New Health Rankings Show Progress, Problems in PA

By Andrea Sears - Keystone State News Connection

Dec 15, 2020
Portrait of newborn baby and hand inside incubator

HARRISBURG, Pa. — More Pennsylvanians got a flu vaccination in 2019 and the state’s uninsured rate stayed low; those are some positive findings in the 2020 America’s Health Rankings report.

The annual report found fewer than 6% of Pennsylvanians lacked health insurance last year, putting the state in the top ten for health coverage. The Keystone State is also among the top ten for flu vaccinations, up 19% since 2018.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior medical advisor for the United Health Foundation, said the Commonwealth has one of the highest immunization rates for children.

“They’re ranked third in the nation for that measure,” Randall noted. “And I think a lot of that is because you are more likely, if you live in Pennsylvania, to have a dedicated health-care provider.”

She added Pennsylvania also has made progress on ending smoking, but still ranks 32nd among states for that measure, and the racial gap in low infant birth weight increased in 2019.

Obesity continues to be an issue. Randall noted between 2011 and 2019, the number of adult Pennsylvanians self-reporting that they’re obese rose from 28.6% to more than 33%.

“That’s very concerning,” Randall remarked. “Because we know that’s a leading indicator for the development of preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer among other diagnoses.”

Nationally, obesity numbers in the report reached an all-time high, affecting more than 70 million adults.

The figures in this year’s report are from before the COVID pandemic hit. Randall projected the full impact of the health and economic crisis will become evident in future reports.

“For the next two years, I think we’ll see that it’s going to have an effect, nationally and in the state level,” Randall predicted. “And we’ll be able to see those variations, particularly in subpopulations. We know the pandemic hurt certain populations more than others.”

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