ANNAPOLIS, Md. — While the pandemic has made health outcomes worse, a new report shows before the COVID crisis, Maryland ranked first in the nation for healthy drinking water, strong smoking regulations, and climate-change action.

UnitedHealthcare’s 31st annual America’s Health Rankings report also showed the state is facing challenges, according to Rhonda Randall, vice president, and chief medical officer with the group. She said the state ranked 48th in drug-use deaths, and that ranking has likely gotten worse during the pandemic.

Other problems include racial disparities in housing and education.

“There’s some significant racial gap in high school graduation. It got worse over the prior year,” Randall said. “So between 2017 and 2018, that racial gap for high school graduation increased 12%.”

Maryland ranked 10th for overall health. Nationally, the report found nearly 10% of American adults have multiple chronic conditions, which may make them immunocompromised and more susceptible to the coronavirus.

The report measured categories including social and economic factors, clinical care and health behaviors. Randall pointed out that across the nation, obesity rates rose 15% between 2011 and 2019 to an all-time high of about 40%, affecting more than 70 million adults.

She said the report also found an alarming rise in suicide rates, increasing 23% from 2009 to 2018.

“On the positive side relating to mental health, we see more individuals who are getting their degree as a licensed mental-health provider,” she said. “So nationally, the supply of mental-health providers is encouraging. We saw a 9% increase from 2019 to 2020.”

And in another positive for Maryland, excessive drinking decreased 23% between 2011 and 2019 – from almost 20% to 15% of adults.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service

Diane Bernard is a digital and radio journalist based in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her print and online credits include work for The Washington...

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