With Higher Smoking Rates, Indiana Falls In Health Rankings

Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 11:53 AM

By Mary Kuhlman, Indiana News Service

Smoking has increased in Indiana in the past two years, while decreasing in many other states.

Photo by Brun-nO/Pixabay.

(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Indiana is facing serious health challenges, according to an annual state-by-state ranking of key health indicators. 

The America's Health Rankings 2018 report released on Wednesday places Indiana 41st among states, down from 38th in 2017. 

Dr. Rhonda Randall, senior medical adviser with United Health Foundation, is especially concerned about smoking in Indiana, which rose 6 percent while decreasing in many other states.

"Other areas where Indiana is challenged are in the number of cancer deaths and a high infant mortality rate, and those two may have some linkages with the increase in smoking," she states.

Randall says the prevalence of obesity is of greatest concern at the national level. It now impacts 31 percent of adults and is a primary contributor to heart disease and cancer. 

Indiana's adult obesity rate is slightly higher at 33 percent.

On the bright side, Randall notes, childhood poverty has decreased 19 percent nationally in the past five years.

"Childhood poverty is a key indicator of socioeconomic status, and we know that children who are living in poverty have greater challenges for health for the rest of their life," she states. "So the fact that childhood poverty is decreasing is a good suggestion that, over the course of their lifetime, we're setting them on a path to better health."

Randall says the findings can help people focus on areas where they can improve behaviors that impact their health. 

With smoking, for example, she says it's understandable that quitting is a challenge. 

"What will motivate you and hold yourself accountable?" she states. "And recognize that comprehensive support and sometimes medication-assisted therapy for tobacco cessation can really be a big help in doing that. See if you can get support from family and others who are around you."

Randall adds that health professionals, public health leaders and policymakers can use the report to examine ways to better support people in their communities in all aspects of their health.

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