Data from the first two years of the pandemic are in, and the “America’s Health Rankings 2022 Annual Report” shows California has a few bright spots, but ranks at or near the bottom among the states for air quality, drug deaths and housing issues.
Researchers from UnitedHealth Foundation ranked the Golden State 50th in terms of air pollution.
Mariela Ruacho, clean air advocacy manager for the American Lung Association, said wildfire smoke does not help, but the biggest contributor is transportation.
“California is home to six of the 10 smoggiest cities in the nation, and eight most polluted by particle pollution,” Ruacho reported. “So, it puts people at higher risk for asthma attack, heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and premature death.”
California also ranked 50th for colorectal cancer screenings and 48th for access to primary care doctors, but the state scored best in the U.S. for its low number of drinking-water violation, and ranked second for its relatively low numbers of smokers and people with multiple chronic health conditions.
This is the 33rd annual report, and the first to include data from the first two years of the pandemic.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said from 2019 to 2020, the opioid crisis worsened, leading to a shocking 43% increase in drug deaths in California, with a 30% jump nationally.
“This is the largest yearly increase in drug deaths since we’ve been looking at it in 2007,” Randall noted. “That means nearly 92,000 additional people died in the United States due to drug injury and overdose compared to the prior year.”
The report also cited an 18% jump in premature deaths per 100,000 people nationally, from 2019 to 2020.
Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to Public News Service fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.