Florida is being labeled as an unhealthy state, ranking 42nd in a study by the United Health Foundation. On looking further into the study, I discovered that the risk factors they considered were far different from the ones I would have chosen to get a picture of how living in a certain state might be a health risk or benefit. I would have asked questions such as:
  • What are the risks of climate-related injury and death (heat stroke, frostbite, and other risks of exposure or inadequate shelter)?
  • What are the risks/benefits of the state's relationship to the sun (increased risk of skin cancer, decreased risk of rickets)?
  • How many days per year are people likely to engage in outdoor activity (not driven indoors by cold or heat)?
  • How likely would one be to find a good doctor/hospital when necessary?
  • How free are people to make their own health care choices?
  • What is the general quality of the air and water?
  • What regulations are enforced concerning a healthy environment—everything from industrial and agricultural pollution to building codes and smoke-free workplaces?
  • What is the rate of violent crime?
  • How likely is one to be killed or injured in an auto accident?
  • What is the threat of potential disasters (earthquake, volcanic eruption, tornado, hurricane, terrorist strike)?
  • Are there any state-specific disease problems (high incidence of hepatitis, tick-borne disease, plague)?
  • What is the general infectious disease rate?

In other words, when considering how good or bad living in a state might be for one's health, of greatest interest are those factors over which an individual has little or no control. While this study includes some of those, it confuses the data with factors that I see as irrelevant, such as the percentage of the population that smokes (a marginally important enviromental factor), and the high school graduation rate (utterly unrelated to a particular person's health risk).

Check it out for yourself, and see your own state's ranking.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 9, 2004 at 7:37 am | Edit
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