Virginia Health Rank Improves to 15th Best

Source: America’s Health Rankings

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has improved from 20th place last year to 15th place this year among the 50 states in America’s Health Rankings compiled by the United Health Foundation. The report cited the Commonwealth as one of three states that “made the largest improvements in the rankings since 2018.” (See the Virginia health profile here.)

Virginia strengths: a low crime rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, and high immunization coverage among children. Since 2012, smoking has decreased from 20.9% of adults to 14.9%. Air pollution has decreased, and so has infant mortality.

Virginia challenges: a low rate of mental health providers, low per capita public health funding, low meningococcal immunization among adolescents. Drug deaths are up, frequent mental distress has increased, and so has the rate of chlamydia.

Overall, the story is a positive one. To what does the Commonwealth owe this improvement?

The Virginia  Hospital and Healthcare Association credits Medicaid expansion and “the hard work of Virginia’s health care community.”

“Hospitals and health systems have consistently demonstrated a commitment to that effort [of improving health for all Virginians] through action and deeds such as steadfast support for increased health care access, and ongoing work to enhance health care quality, safety, and service in community across the Commonwealth,” says VHHA President Sean T. Connaughton. “More work needs to be done, but these year-over-year gains are proof that progress is being made.”

The VHHA’s claims regarding hospital achievements need to be subjected to some critical examination to make sure they’re not just cherry-picked P.R. fluff. Still, the VHHA’s emphasis on healthcare quality and safety seems entirely appropriate.

Virginia needs to move beyond the debilitating debate over who pays for health care and focus now on improving efficiency, productivity, quality and outcomes with the long-term goal of driving down health care expenditures that impose a crippling burden on businesses and privately insured patients. If we can’t get control over the cost of health care, insurance premiums will continue to climb and access will always be an issue.

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3 responses to “Virginia Health Rank Improves to 15th Best

  1. Sure. Medicaid expansion that just got rolling a year ago and which just hit a good stride six months ago, and which still hasn’t enrolled the number promised, made all the difference! Horse hockey. More than half the money went to paying higher reimbursements, not signing up more patients. There are 35 measures, many valid and vitally important (smoking, obesity, immunization, air pollution) and others of debatable importance. But it seems the elements of huge impact have the same weight as those of dubious import. Not sure I put much stock in this….

    Smoking, obesity, alcohol use and immunization rates alone would be a pretty good proxy for both current and more important long term health….And the variations you see in that national map would also appear on a map of VA counties on the basis of their smoking, obesity, alcohol use and immunization rates (plus perhaps average age.)

  2. I think we’d know better if we had the data drawn according to county and my bet is that the left side of the state would look more like the states it’s adjacent to.

    I suspect the reason Virginia is improving is that those who live in the urban areas and have quality health insurance see doctors regularly and receive treatment for smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc which is proven to improve health and longevity.

    here’s that map:


  3. here’s another datapoint:

    ” Maternal mortality overall appears to increasing in Virginia. Preliminary numbers show that the overall maternal death rate increased from 46 per 100,000 live births in 2015 to 61.3 per 100,000 live births in 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

    Northam, a pediatrician, has honed in on the stark racial disparity in maternal mortality rates. Black women in Virginia have consistently died at more than twice the rate of white women during and after pregnancy, and were more likely to die of natural causes, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

    From 2009 to 2013, maternal mortality rates among black women ranged from 60 to 105 deaths per every 100,000 live births compared with 27 to 35 per 100,000 among white women. In June Northam announced a goal to eliminate racial disparities in maternal mortality by 2025″

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