As Iowa works to become the healthiest state in the nation, a study finds Iowa has lost some ground in that effort. A report called “America’s Health Rankings” by the United Health Foundation ranks Iowa the 18th healthiest state in the U.S., down one position from 17th last year. Foundation spokeswoman Dr. Rhonda Randall says the 24th annual study is based on 27 measures in four key health categories.

Dr. Randall says, “We see the strengths in Iowa being high rates of high school graduation, a low percentage of children in poverty, and we see some challenges as well: high prevalence of obesity, also of binge drinking and a low availability of primary care physicians.”

While the study finds fewer Iowans are now using tobacco products, it also indicates too few of us are getting off the couch for the recommended amount of daily exercise. “Over the past year, we’ve seen a decrease in the rate of smoking, however, over 400,000 individuals in Iowa continue to smoke,” Randall says. “We also see the prevalence of diabetes slightly increasing from 8.2 to 9.7% of adults and that’s quite troubling.”

The improvements and challenges Iowa is seeing are similar to those being faced nationwide, she says. The report finds progress on Americans’ overall health was driven by improvements in more than two-thirds of health measures, including smoking and physical inactivity. “For many years, we’ve seen obesity on the rise,” Randall says. “This is the first year we’ve seen it level off, however, we continue to see diabetes on the rise. About 10% of the United States’ adult population has a diagnosis of diabetes.”

The nation’s obesity rate was about the same as last year, at 27.6 percent of the adult population, marking the first time since 1998 America did not get worse in this key metric. While Iowa ranked number-18 on the list this year, Hawaii was tops, followed by Vermont, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The lowest ranked states are: West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and in last place, Mississippi. To see the full study, visit: