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“Location, location, location”; it matters in so many different aspects of life. But, what role does location play in your health and wellbeing? Can where you live impact your potential to develop certain diseases? The short answer is, yes. In fact, when it comes to your health, your location plays a critical role in your overall well-being. 

Consider this: certain areas within the country have much higher rates of chronic illness, premature deaths, and overall poor health behaviors. According to a report conducted by the United Health Foundation, Massachusetts, for example, is rated as one of the country’s healthiest states overall, but has seen an increase in mortality rates due to drug-related deaths. Alabama, on the other hand, is rated much lower on the list for overall health. These rankings are generally based on four factors that reflect physical, mental, and social well-being:

  • Behaviors
  • Policies
  • Clinical Care
  • Community & Environment

While states like Massachusetts and Hawaii rank high overall, with the highest marks for all four factors, others like Alabama and Mississippi rank in the bottom 10%. But why? And, is there room for improvement? 

The United Health Foundations reports provide us with an in-depth analysis of the various ways these factors impact the health of residents. Things like air pollution, smoking, and drug use are behavioral and environmental factors that can negatively impact the health of residents in a specific location. Leading to premature death or chronic illness. Similarly, factors such as available medical treatments, insurance, public health funding, and access to mental and primary health providers also play a role, and fall under the categories of policies and clinical care. 

In a recent article from Michigan State University, assistant professor of public health Rick Sadler stated: “The more we understand the way the built environment affects healthy behaviors, the more we can advocate for changes that will make these behaviors easier to carry out…Part of the goal is to reduce health disparities”.

While controlling these different factors may prove to be challenging, paying attention to how each state is impacted by them can provide us with the necessary tools to take action and improve the health and wellbeing on a national scale.