Minnesota: You eat too much. You drink too much.

When the Legislature and governor started throwing people off MinnesotaCare a few years ago, opponents claimed the action would turn Minnesota into another Mississippi. But it’s tough to beat Mississippi in the “race for worst” when you’re competing against… Mississippi.

That state kept its ranking as least healthy state in the nation.

And Minnesota? It has fallen all the way to… #2 according to a survey released today that tracks the state of health in the United States. Minnesota swapped positions with Vermont, the survey said. And at first blush, you can blame two major indices: the rate of uninsured, and the amount of food we’re shoving in our mouths.

Of 20 major standards, Minnesota improved in seven — Fewer smokers, less binge drinking, preventable hospitalizations, poor mental health days (best in the nation), poor physical health days, infant mortality and cancer deaths.

It lost ground in five areas. We’re fatter (slipping from 20th to 21st), we don’t graduate high school as often (We were #1 in high school graduation in 1990 and have been slipping ever since; down to #7 this year), we get killed at work more often, we don’t have health insurance (1st to 4th), and we don’t get our children immunized at the rate we once did.

Because of the cuts in MinnesotaCare in recent years, the rate of uninsured in Minnesota is up from 7.9 percent to 9.2 percent. The percentage of Minnesotans in poverty is up to 11.1 percent. Vermont improved from 15th to 9th in this area, yet still trails Minnesota.

But it’s the obesity that’s killing us. The prevalence of obesity increased from 10.2 percent in 1990 to 24.7 percent this year. Think of that: One out of every four of us is obese. (Background: See MPR”S Fight Against Fat)

In Minnesota, by the way, you are 63 percent more likely to die a premature death, if you’re black.

But even though Minnesota improved in its rate of binge drinking by teenagers, the accomplishment is hardly worth a toast. How bad is it? We’re 41st in the amount of binge drinking. Mississippi — the “dead-last state” — is 4th. Binge drinking, for reasons I have yet to figure out, is a uniquely Upper Midwest tradition and this hasn’t changed in years.

Just look at the bottom of the pile: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin make up 8 of the bottom 11 states.

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