Washington’s residents love to get outdoors, eat clean, and enjoy the natural wonders stretching far past Puget Sound and all the way up to Mount Rainier. America’s Health Rankings were recently released by the United Health Foundation and their annual report ranked the Evergreen state 9th healthiest in the United States. The people of Washington not only rank high for their love of recreation but also to the curbing of nasty habits. Washington has a very low prevalence of people whom smoke with a dramatic 21% decrease from 17.5% to 13.9% of adults. Washington also totes a low prevalence of low birthweight and low preventable hospitalization rates.
Although Washington has safely sat in its seat of the top 10 healthiest states for the last three years, it still faces its challenges. Pertussis, more commonly referred to as whooping cough, is high in Washington. Most notably is the large disparity in health status by educational attainment; simply put, education enables people to live longer, happier lives. Washington’s high school graduation rate is 78.2%, 41st of the 50 States. Education does not necessarily guarantee better health, but it does provide the framework. Those who are educated are more likely to have more income and resources. Alternatively, poor health can put education at risk. This example of reverse causality shows how poor health can stunt a person’s ability to receive an education due to poor attendance or lack of concentration. While states determine high school graduation rates with their own sets of standards and rules making the rankings tricky to compare, Washington’s K-12 system is low-funded when looked at against other states. It is important to note that Washington’s high school graduation rate did slightly increase from 2016.
One major success the state of Washington can celebrate is the uninsured population decreasing by 56% from 14.2% of the population to just 6.3%. This matters tremendously for people’s health. Insurance allows preventive care so people can remain healthy and medical care so illness or ailments do not grow into larger issues.
Another highlight is that air pollution has decreased by 19% over the last decade dropping from 9.6 to 7.8 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter. This is good for the environment but also Washington state residents’ health. Air pollution is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory issues and is associated with lung and heart problems and premature death. Older adults, young children, and anyone with chronic conditions suffer more severe side effects from pollution. Decreasing fossil fuel consumption is a great way to help protect the environment for future generations while actively helping lower air pollution.