State’s low health rank noticeable to students


CW/ Kallie Chabla

Kennedy Plieth, Contributing Writer

With the release of the 2018 America’s Health Rankings annual report, the United Health Foundation listed Alabama as number 48 out of 50 in the country. The rank was down one spot from last year and is just ahead of Mississippi at 49 and Louisiana, that finished the year off in last place.

The annual report analyzes data among the states based on 35 markers of health, which include behaviors, community and environment, clinical care, policy and health outcomes. In each of the categories that the states were scored, Alabama finished in the bottom half with its best category being policy, where the state was ranked 34th.

The categories that dropped the ranking were community and environment, clinical care and health outcomes, as the state came in at 49th for each. Major problems that were shown in the report include the increase of obesity, drug deaths and diabetes.

In the past six years, obesity has increased 13 percent, and the percentage of adults in the state of Alabama that have been medically diagnosed as obese is more than 36 percent, which is the highest it’s ever been. This percentage lands Alabama as the fifth-most obese state in the country as of 2017, according to Over 40 percent of adults ages 45-64 are considered obese, claiming the largest section of this group.

In just the last six years, the percentage of people in Alabama with diabetes has increased from just below 12 percent of adults to more than 14 percent. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Coordinated Chronic Disease Plan, for the years 2014 to 2020, the goal is to “reduce the disease and economic burden of diabetes and improve the quality of life for all persons who have, or are at risk for diabetes.”

“Diabetes and obesity can be related,” said Shandra Andry, a certified nurse and midwife. “The increase of diabetes comes with the increase of obesity, but it could be decreased or even prevented with lifestyle changes like weight loss or increased physical activity.”

Andry said she hopes for a push for those lifestyle changes in hopes of encouraging a drop in these numbers.

In the last five years, the state of Alabama has had a 26 percent increase in drug deaths, which is the highest it has ever been. These issues were just a few that landed Alabama in the bottom five of the ranking. An issue that some students at The University of Alabama related to was the clinical care and health outcomes categories, in both of which Alabama finished number 49.

Ashley Feighery, a sophomore majoring in political science and economics who is from Connecticut (which was ranked number three overall) said simply going to the doctor here is different than it is back home.

“At home if I go to urgent care, I’ll be there for 20 minutes, maybe, just talking them through what is going on with me, but here they talk to me for three or four minutes and then they’re trying to shove antibiotics down my throat for a virus,” she said.

Wes Burcham, an in-state sophomore studying general business agreed, explaining there did seem to be something wrong with the health care system he grew up with.

“Growing up I felt like my family and I had a pretty good family doctor, but if we went into our local urgent care, it seemed like the doctors were just going through the motions and trying to move onto the next patient,” Burcham said. “They didn’t seem to take the time on us.”  

While the state of Alabama does have room to grow in medical standards, and students from all over the country like Feighery and Burcham have concerns, the results of these rankings weren’t all bad. Some highlights of the report were that air pollution has decreased 46 percent, which is a big step in improving the health standard for citizens. Other improvements include the number of uninsured people decreased 28 percent, and the number of HPV vaccinations has increased 19 percent, showing that the people of Alabama are taking a step toward trying to improve their own health. The report also included a list of strengths, which included a low prevalence of excessive drinking, a high percentage of high school graduation and high per capita public health funding.

The Crimson White reached out to the Alabama Department of Public Health for a comment but did not receive a response.