Slideshow: America's healthiest (and least healthy) states

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Despite years of efforts to even out health disparities across the United States, some states are dramatically healthier than others. Despite years of efforts to even out health disparities across the United States, some states are dramatically healthier than others.

(CNN) – Despite years of efforts to even out health disparities across the United States, some states are dramatically healthier than others, according to a new report from America's Health Rankings.

The five healthiest states are:

  • Massachusetts (This is the first time Massachusetts has been named the healthiest state, ending Hawaii's five-year reign.)
  • Hawaii
  • Vermont
  • Utah
  • Connecticut

The five least healthy states are:

  • West Virginia
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi

(Photo Credit: americashealthrankings.org)

The rankings take into account a variety of health factors, such as:

  • Rates of infectious diseases
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Infant mortality
  • Air pollution levels
  • Availability of healthcare providers

[Mobile Users Click Here To View The Full Report]

Massachusetts won the honor in part due to having the lowest percentage of uninsured residents at just 2.7% of the population, plus a low prevalence of obesity and a high number of mental health providers.

Mississippi and Louisiana ranked 49th and 50th, and have major health challenges including:

  • A high prevalence of smoking 
  • Obesity
  • Children in poverty

"We don't have a system with everybody in," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which was not involved in the new report. "We're failing in our fundamental task to be a healthier nation."

The report, America's Health Rankings, has been analyzing state health standings for 28 years.

This latest report shows that the nation's health overall is getting worse:

  • The nation's premature death rate (the number of years of potential life lost before age 75) has increased three percent since 2015.
  • Drug deaths increased seven percent since 2015
  • Cardiovascular deaths have gone up two percent in the same amount of time.

That leaves the United States ranking 27th in terms of life expectancy in a comparison of 35 countries, according to the report.

Benjamin said it's frustrating to see these numbers, despite the fact that the US spends significantly more on health care than other nations, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"We're spending more on health care and we die sooner," he said. "We need to do a timeout and figure out how to do this better."

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control, said the trends in higher death rates from cardiovascular disease and drug use can be reversed if four principles are followed:

  • Principle #1: Follow the "ABCs" suggested by the federal Million Hearts program, which calls for aspirin when appropriate, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation.
  • Principle #2: Reduce smoking nationwide through measures such as increased tobacco taxes and making all workplaces smoke-free.
  • Principle #3: The federal government needs to take these 10 steps to reduce the opioid epidemic, including more cautious prescribing of drugs by doctors.
  • Principle #4: Decrease obesity by measures such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

"Increases in cardiovascular deaths and drug overdoses can be reversed, but it will take concerted action by government, health systems, communities and individuals," Frieden, now president and CEO of the group Resolve to Save Lives, wrote in an email.