A new report provides a checkup on the health of people in Washington and the rest of the country.
America's Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation assesses physical, mental and social well-being, and gives Washington state mostly high ratings.
Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, noted the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an uptick in deaths between 2019 and 2020 nationwide.
"We had a 17% increase in death rate, and that 17% doesn't even reflect some populations," Johar reported. "We know Hispanics and African Americans, the death rate [increase] was even higher than that."
The report said the pandemic contributed to 70% of the death-rate increase. While Washington state received high marks for its low rate of premature deaths and percentage of low-birthweight infants, it also continued to fare worse than the national average in areas like the suicide rate.
Through 2019, Washington state also had a higher rate of suicide among young people, ages 15 to 19.
Matt Kanter, director of programs, education and outreach for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Washington, said services related to suicide are mostly reactive.
"It's a really sad story. Someone takes their own life, a community's impacted and then, the services start," Kanter observed. "The more proactive we are in engaging communities, the more you're going to see those incidents not even happen."
Kanter pointed out it is also important for services to be culturally relevant for the youth they are helping, noting the suicide rate is especially high in indigenous communities around the country.
Johar added mental well-being is an important aspect of health.
"Being able to have a support system; talking to friends, and finding a way to be socially active, really, really makes a big difference in your mental well-being," Johar advised. "And we know that mental well-being has an immense effect on physical well-being, too."
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