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5 Insights about Pennsylvania’s Health

December 07, 2022

Pennsylvania continues to rank among the best states for clinical care, but faces significant challenges when it comes to obesity, drug use, and housing segregation, according to a report released this week.

The United Health Foundation's annual rankings evaluate the health of America’s 50 states. Overall, Pennsylvania fared in the middle of the pack at 25th this year, but the state was eighth for clinical care. This year’s report includes insights from the first two years of the pandemic.

“As we continue to repair the damage of the past few years, we must recognize and address this toll—along with the other aspects of the pandemic that affected mental health, social connectedness, access to care and other factors in disparate ways,” the report notes.

Among the notable takeaways for Pennsylvania:

  • Clinical excellence:  Pennsylvania’s clinical ranking was based off measures for access to care (number of providers, uninsured rate, patients avoiding care due to cost), use of preventive clinical services (dental visits, immunizations, colorectal screenings), and quality of care.
  • Rising trend:  More than 16 percent of Pennsylvania adults reported non-medical drug use during 2022, a 55 percent increase.
  • Obesity rises:  From 2015 to 2021, obesity has risen 11 percent in Pennsylvania to 33.3 percent of adults.
  • Areas for improvement:  Compared to other states, Pennsylvania’s health measures ranked worse for deaths per 100,000 population (43), sleep health (43), residential segregation (43), and housing with lead risk (47).
  • The big picture:  “To truly better the health of all our communities, it is critical that we take action to improve health and address its determinants among the populations impacted by these inequities,” the report notes.

Nationally, drug deaths increased 30 percent during 2020 (27.9 deaths per 100,000). This is the largest year-over-year increase since 2007.

The report also noted discouraging trends for chronic conditions (+5%) and premature deaths (+18%). Reading proficiency also declined 6 percent among fourth graders during the pandemic.

The number of adults reporting that their mental health was not good for 14 or more days during the past month increased 14.7 percent from 2020 to 2021, highlighting the importance of behavioral health care.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Hawaii topped the list for healthiest states. Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Alabama had the most room to improve, the report notes.

United Health Foundation’s annual health rankings include more than 80 measures at the national and state levels to analyze the impact of the pandemic during 2020 and 2021.

The annual report, as well as a state summary, is available online.