Maine drops to 20th in healthiest state ranking

Maine fell from 16th to 20th in an annual national health ranking, dragged down by poverty and low vaccination rates among children, among other factors.

The state’s finish marks its worst since the nonprofit United Health Foundation launched its “America’s Health Rankings” in 1990.

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Nearly 21 percent of Maine children live in poverty, a rate that remains largely unchanged over the last 25 years. Less than 70 percent of children between 19 and 35 months of age receive recommended vaccines, placing Maine 35th in the country on that measure. Low immunization rates may have contributed to relatively high rates of whooping cough.

The state is also home to too many smokers, though far fewer than in 1990, and ranks a depressing 40th for deaths from cancer, the rankings found.

Maine scored well in other areas, placing first nationally for our low rate of violent crime. Other bright spots were our high graduation rate (education is a strong predictor of life expectancy), low number of deaths from heart disease, and low prevalence of babies with low birthweight.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the sobering news about prescription painkiller and heroin abuse in Maine, drug deaths fell by 16 percent over the last two years.

The report also found Maine needs more dentists, ranking 35th in the country with 51.1 dentists for every 100,000 residents.

So how did the other 49 states perform? Hawaii was the healthiest state, followed by Vermont, then Massachusetts. Mississippi pulled up the rear at dead last as the least healthy state.

Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.