Preventive Healthcare Best in Massachusetts, Worst in Mississippi

Megan Brooks

February 29, 2016

Prevention is a core pillar of public health, and some states do it better than others, according to the 2016 America's Health Rankings Spotlight: Prevention report from the United Health Foundation.

The report, released February 26, takes an in-depth look at preventive measures across all 50 states through the lenses of access to healthcare and chronic-disease prevention methods and immunization rates.

The report demonstrates the importance of taking a holistic view of prevention. States that perform well in one category of prevention, such as access, generally perform well across the other two categories (immunizations and chronic-disease prevention). Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont exhibit the strongest overall prevention performance, while Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, Alaska, and Mississippi have the "greatest opportunities for improvements," the report notes.

States in New England have the highest percentage of residents who say they have a dedicated health provider, while states in the West and Southwest have the lowest percentage. States in the Rocky Mountain region have the lowest reported prevalence of hypertension among adults, while states in the Southeast have the highest prevalence.

Immunization Rates

The report also finds "significant variation" among states in immunization rates. Childhood immunization rates range from 84.7% in Maine to 63.4% in West Virginia. States in the South, Northwest, and Midwest have the lowest rates of childhood immunization rates.

Adult immunization rates range from 50.2% in South Dakota to 31.7% in Florida. Pneumococcal vaccination rates among the elderly range from 75.6% in Oregon to 61.9% in New Jersey.

Nationally, across age groups, immunization rates lag behind the US Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 targets. According to the report, 71.6% of children aged 19 to 35 months completed the recommended series of childhood immunizations, short of the goal of 80%; 40.4% of adults received an influenza vaccination, short of the goal of 70%; and 69.5% of adults aged 65 years or older received the pneumococcal vaccine, short of the goal of 90%.

The report also highlights income, education, geography, race/ethnicity inequalities in preventive healthcare services. It notes, for example, that a lower percentage of Hispanics (59.2%) report having a dedicated healthcare provider compared with non-Hispanic whites (82.1%) and non-Hispanic blacks (76.5%); fewer Hispanic adults (51.7%) report having received recommended colorectal cancer screenings than non-Hispanic whites (68.3%) and non-Hispanic blacks (67.7%); and by income, 73.4% of adults aged 50 to 74 years with income of $75,000 reported getting colorectal cancer screening compared with 55.6% of adults with income below $25,000.

"Clinical preventive services and interventions have been instrumental in everything from lowering rates of illness and disease to helping reduce the overall burden on the health care system," the report states. Yet data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Americans use preventive services at half the recommended rate.

America's Health Rankings is the longest-running annual assessment of the nation's health on a state-by-state basis. The full report on prevention is available here.

2016 America's Health Rankings Spotlight: Prevention. Published online February 26, 2016.

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