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NM 37th in nation in health rankings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An increase in violent crime in 2015 – still far below peak crime rates in the late 1990s and early 2000 – helped drag down New Mexico’s ranking in an annual snapshot of the nation’s health issued by the United Health Foundation.

New Mexico ranked 37th in the nation in the America’s Health Rankings 2015 report, down from 33rd in 2014 and 32nd in 2013, based on a comparison of 30 factors that include clinical care, personal behavior and community and environmental conditions.

Factors including high rates of drug deaths, diabetes, occupational fatalities, low birth weight babies and children living in poverty also weighed down the state, as they do each year.

On the plus side, New Mexico has low rates of cancer and cardiovascular deaths, a low prevalence of excessive drinking, and good air quality compared with other states, according to the report.

“We have done better in some areas, and we have challenges in others,” said Dr. Denise Leonardi, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New Mexico, a group that provides health insurance.

High rates of poverty are an underlying factor that helps explain several of New Mexico’s problem areas, including low birth weights, high crime rates and drug addiction, she said.

New Mexico ranked 49th both in high school graduation and drug deaths. The report found that about 70 percent of New Mexicans graduated from high school. The state reported a 68.5 percent rate in 2014.

Leonardi also cited poor access to prenatal care and a high rate of drug-addicted mothers as key factors in the state’s high percentage of low birth weight babies, listed as 8.8 percent by the report.

Better access to prenatal care is a major focus of efforts to improve health care in New Mexico by insurers and public health officials, she said.

Of the 50 states, New Mexico ranked:

• 48th in infectious diseases, based on rates of chlamydia, pertussis and salmonella.

• 42nd in occupational fatalities, with a rate of 6.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.

• 4th in cancer deaths, with a rate of 167.3 deaths per 100,000 population.

• 49th in violent crime, with 613 offenses per 100,000 population.

• 43rd in children in poverty, with 25.7 percent of children in poverty.

• 40th in diabetes, with 11.5 percent of adults diagnosed.

The full report can be found online at www.americashealthrankings.org.

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