EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

December 16, 2013

N.H. ranks fifth, Mass. fourth for health

New Hampshire is the fifth healthiest state in the nation, but has fallen behind neighboring Massachusetts in newly released rankings by the United Health Foundation.

Massachusetts maintained its standing as the fourth-ranked state.

“We are lucky to be living in such a healthy state, but there is more work to be done,” said Dr. Jose Montero, New Hampshire’s public health director.

Revisions by the foundation affected the standing among states this year.

“We had a change in the methodology this year that we use to construct the report and measure the health of a state,” spokeswoman Lauren Mihajlov said. “We added four new measures and revised the data in two others.”

The report said cardiovascular deaths in New Hampshire decreased 42 percent over 10 years, but smoking has decreased more than 2 percent in the past year.

“Our immunization rate among children is second in the country, but it is not acceptable that we are seeing a busy year for cases of whooping cough,” Montero said. “We still struggle, too, with a fairly high rate of obesity and diabetes as well as youth tobacco use.”

The percentage of children of children living in poverty is a concern. That increased over 10 years from 6.5 percent to 10.9 percent.

“There seems to be an inverse correlation between poverty and health,” said Gale Hennessy, executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services.

The correlation between poverty and poor health is one of the driving factors behind the agency’s efforts to alleviate poverty in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, he said.

“The lower the rate of poverty, the more healthy the population,” Hennessy said.

Garrett Simonsen, coordinator for the Greater Derry Public Health Network, should be proud of highlights such as the low infant mortality rate and high immunization rates.

He said New Hampshire has made progress on decreasing smoking and that is positive.

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