Access to doctors varies widely across the country

Doctors talking
Access to healthcare may depend on where a patient lives. (Getty/wmiami)

If you live in Massachusetts, you may be healthier and have greater access to healthcare providers, according to a new report.

America’s Health Rankings, the annual report on the nation’s health prepared by the United Health Foundation, was released this morning and ranks the country’s healthiest states, as well as looks at patient access to doctors and other providers.

Massachusetts ranked as the nation’s healthiest state for the first time ever, which may be explained in part by the high concentration of healthcare providers. Other top healthiest states, based on wide ranging factors from vaccination rates, smoking rates and air pollution levels, were Hawaii, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut.

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At the bottom of the rankings were Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia.

Challenges to the country’s health include an increase in premature death and an uneven concentration of healthcare providers, the report found. The concentration of healthcare providers continues to vary across the country and may contribute to differences in overall health. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of between about 41,000 and 105,000 doctors by 2030.

RELATED: A state-by-state look at where doctors are needed most

There is a significant difference in the number of primary care physicians per state. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut have more than 200 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, compared to fewer than 100 physicians per 100,000 people in Utah and Idaho.

For the first time, the report measured the concentration of mental health providers. There are 547 mental health providers per 100,000 people in Massachusetts, compared to Alabama, where there are just 85.

Here are other highlights from the report:

  • The drug death rate is at its highest level in the 28-year history of the health rankings, as the country struggles with the opioid crisis that the Joint Commission has said claims 91 American lives per day as a result of overdoses. President Donald Trump in October officially declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.
  • The premature death rate increased for the third year in a row.
  • Cardiovascular deaths increased for the second consecutive year, with the rate among African Americans significantly higher than other groups.


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