Minnesota ranked healthiest state for 8th time in 12 years

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Fred Clayton, an owner’s representative for Facilities Management, exercises daily. At 52, he is internationally competitive in triathlons and runs around the University three days per week.

Clayton is not an anomaly. According to a UnitedHealth Foundation report issued last week, Minnesota is the healthiest state in the union.

The foundation ranked Minnesota at the top of the list because it scored highly in several categories, including the lowest incidents of premature death and heart disease in the country and the highest support for public health care.

“Of the 12 years this study has been done, Minnesota has been ranked No. 1 eight times,” said Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. “Minnesota has never been out of the top three.”

Surrounding states did not do as well, with Wisconsin placing 11th, North Dakota 13th and South Dakota 21st.

The University does its share to help students maintain or improve their level of health through programs offered at both the University Recreation Center and Boynton Health Service, said David Golden, Boynton’s director of public health.

“Anybody that comes into Boynton can pick up information about the services we offer,” Golden said.

Many of these services, including a nutritionist on staff, are covered by student fees, Golden said.

Boynton offers programs to help people quit smoking, and an exercise physiologist is available by appointment.

“The physiologist helps improve physical activity performance or can help a student get started exercising,” Golden said.

In a survey conducted by the University Recreation Center staff in spring 2000, 72 percent of students said they engage in physical activity more than once per week. When the same survey was conducted in 1996, only 68 percent of students were at that level of activity.

“The rec center provides the opportunity to be active,” said Anthony Brown, assistant director of programs.

Other programs the rec center offers include fitness testing, personal training programs, aerobics classes and competitive team sports.

There are other ways students and staff maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Barb Jacobs, a senior studying English and art history, lives in the Seward neighborhood and bikes to campus every day for what she said are health, economic and environmental reasons.

“I think the campus and city of Minneapolis can use a lot of work in alternative means of transportation, especially more bike paths,” Jacobs said. “I think more biking options would help students be more healthy. Biking gives people a good opportunity to get out of their cars and be more healthy and self-sufficient.”

While Minnesota did receive high marks in several areas, some of the study’s categories show room for improvement.

Malcolm said the government needs to work on gaps in health disparities among populations of color.

The report ranked Minnesota 26th in the adequacy of prenatal care.

“Certainly we view this as a good measure of Minnesota’s performance over time,” Malcolm said. “But we need to look at where our averages don’t hold up.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial encourages comments at [email protected]