Minnesota got a double dose of good news this week, when the UnitedHealth Foundation ranked it 4th healthiest in the United States and the Commonwealth Fund scored it first in the nation for its health care.
Minnesotans report experiencing poor physical health on just three of every 30 days — the lowest rate in the nation — which probably explains why it also has the lowest rates of people dying prematurely or from cardiovascular problems, according to UnitedHealth’s 2015 state rankings.
The state also made the top five in 17 of 40 measures on the Commonwealth Fund Scorecard, and had the nation’s lowest rates of health care-attributable deaths and of nursing home residents needing hospitalizations.
But even Minnesota has warts when it comes to health.
About 21 percent of Minnesota adults drink excessively, according to the UnitedHealth data. That ranked it 44th for adult binge-drinking — where 50th is worst — though it represents progress from a ranking of 47th a year earlier.
There appears to be some element of winter survival to the drinking numbers, as states with the highest rates are mostly in the Midwest, along with Montana and Alaska. But the consequence of binge drinking can be higher rates of alcohol-related vehicle accidents and misadventures, and of liver and other diseases.
Also troubling in the UnitedHealth report was Minnesota’s plummeting four-year high school graduation rate. The state ranked 7th in the 2014 rankings, with 88 percent of ninth-graders earning high school degrees four years later. In the 2015 report, that rate was 79.8 percent, and the state dropped to 34th.
Turns out, the rates aren’t comparable — a new federal methodology for tracking students who graduate high school was reflected in the 2015 rankings. Still, any report showing a middling number of graduating high schoolers is troubling because Minnesotans without degrees are more likely to be in poverty. And poverty leads to a wealth of health risks.
Low marks in the Commonwealth report included a below average rate of adults with designated health care providers, and one of the nation’s lowest rates of children receiving annual physicals and dental visits. And Minnesota lagged in measures of home health care quality.
The reports offer great news on balance, but there is still work to do.