Arkansas is again near the bottom of all states in the latest America’s Health Rankings report, released Tuesday, Dec. 5, by the United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association. The report ranks Arkansas as the 48th healthiest state in the nation, the same position the state held in the past two years’ reports. Arkansas’s highest-ever ranking was 40th in the 1993 and 2009 reports.
The annual report analyzes 81 health measures from 31 national- and state-level data sources to identify current or emerging public health successes and challenges. It focuses on five categories of health — social and economic factors, physical environment, clinical care, behaviors, and health outcomes — with the objective to inform and drive action to build healthier communities.
Arkansas is ranked below the national average on 39 out of 53 ranked measures in the latest report. Many of these measures have remained unchanged or worsened from last year’s report. The graphic below shows some of the measures that have worsened in this year’s report.
Arkansas continues to be among the worst-ranked states for teen births (50th), food insecurity (50th), smoking (49th), adults reporting frequent mental distress (49th), and adults reporting frequent physical distress (49th). In December 2022, the Governor’s Food Desert Working Group, which included ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson and ACHI Senior Policy Analyst Jennifer Wessel, released a report on food access issues in Arkansas.
Notably, Arkansas’s teen birth rate is nearly twice that of the national average. We prominently featured unintended pregnancy as a health risk in our infographic on the birthing journey.
Despite low rankings in many categories, Arkansas scored higher than the national average on 11 measures and saw some improved values and rankings, including those shown in the graphic below.
Northeastern states New Hampshire (1st), Massachusetts (2nd), and Vermont (3rd) rank as the healthiest states in the U.S., while Southern states Louisiana (50th), Mississippi (49th), and Arkansas (48th) rank as the states with the most opportunity for improvement.
This year’s report notes that more than 29 million adults in the U.S. reported having three or more chronic health conditions in 2022. In that year, the prevalence of eight chronic conditions measured — arthritis, asthma, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and diabetes — reached their highest levels since tracking for the report began.
The report also shows significant racial and ethnic disparities for certain chronic conditions. During the period of 2013 through 2016, asthma-related emergency room visits were 2.5 times higher among Black adults with asthma compared to White adults with asthma. White adults with hypertension were also 1.5 times more likely to have controlled blood pressure — systolic blood pressure less than 140 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure less than 90 mm Hg among persons with hypertension — compared to Black adults with hypertension.