Iowans can boast a stronger high school graduation rate and fewer drug deaths per 100,000 than its neighbor Illinois. But the Land of Lincoln also bests the Hawkeye State in several categories, including occupational fatalities, dentists and mental health providers.
Neither can brag about its obesity, though.
The 2018 United Health Foundation’s 29th Annual Health Rankings ranked the 50 states by 35 categories split into four areas: individual behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care.
Iowa ranked 18th overall, among the best in the country in some categories and among the worst in others. High school graduation rate remains a strong point, with 91.3 percent graduating in 2018, tops in the country.
“Iowa’s known for its good public education, and Scott County has several district school systems that are well-ranked, said Scott County Public Health Director Ed Rivers, noting Scott County’s graduation rate is at 93 percent.
Another strong category for Iowa was drug deaths per 100,000. While drug-related deaths increased from 9.4 per 100,000 in 2017 to 9.8 in 2018, it’s still below the national average of 16.9, and the fourth lowest in the nation.
Opioids are an area of interest, Rivers said, and Scott County has a high rate of Narcan use. The nasal spray, he said, helps remediate drug overdoses when they happen, preventing deaths.
Iowa finished in the top 10 for rates of HPV immunizations in women, public health funding and lowest rate of children in poverty.
“We’re seeing some of the same changes within the community and within health,” Scott County Community Health Consultant Brooke Barnes said. “Some of the challenges that they’re focusing on, we’ve also had come as some of our top needs locally.”
Barnes says the health department is creating strategies to work on some of those challenges, including access to health care, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and weight.
Iowa was in the bottom 10 in other areas, including excessive drinking and obesity.
Iowa is 47th in the country in obesity, with a sharp increase from 32 percent of adults with a body mass index of 30.0 or higher in 2017 increasing to 36.4 percent in 2018. That’s more than 5 percentage points higher than the national average, and the largest increase since 2000.
Across the river, Illinois finished 26th overall, one above its 2017 ranking but eight spots below Iowa.
Drug deaths per 100,000 were reported at 15.3, which ranked 19th in the nation and far below Iowa’s ranking of fourth.
Illinois was the average of the United States in high school graduation rate, ranking 25th with a graduation rate of 85.3 percent.
Rock Island has seen a major improvement in the past few years, skyrocketing up to 27th in the state of Illinois out of 102 cities, up from a ranking of 49th in 2017.
The county still has a lot to work on, however. The unemployment rate is higher than the Illinois average at 6.3 percent, as well as children in single-parent households at 42 percent. Alcohol-impaired driving deaths were also at 42 percent in 2018, higher than the Illinois average of 33 percent.
A 2018 community needs assessment, which combines data and input from the Scott, Rock Island and Muscatine counties, also allowed the community to identify health needs.
Rock Island Health Department Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill said they would focus on mental health, nutrition, physical activity and weight and access to healthcare services. “Our state’s challenges in many cases are national challenges.”
While Hill said she couldn’t directly link the improvement to the health assessment, she believes the health assessment has helped create a greater emphasis on health in the community.
The data for the Annual Health Rankings come from about 12 different public health organizations that contribute data. “It looks by health very comprehensively, and then the Scientific Advisory Committee takes those 35 different majors and gives them each an appropriate weight, and that’s how we form the overall rankings,” adviser to the Annual Rankings Dr. Rhonda Randall said.