The overall health of the nation declined over the past year, despite progress made in several key health indicators, according to a report launched Monday by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for Prevention™.

The 18th annual edition ofAmerica’s Health Rankings™: A Call to Action for People & Their Communitiesmeasures the overall healthiness of states and the nation using a comprehensive and longitudinal set of related health determinants and health outcomes. The report indicates that the overall health of the nation declined by a rate of 0.3 percent since last year.

While this report, and others, show there have been modest gains in reducing the rates of cancer and cardiovascular mortality, these improvements continue to be dwarfed by increasing obesity, increasing numbers of uninsured people, children in poverty and the persistence of risky health behaviors, such as tobacco use and violent crime.

Since 2000, there has been a virtual stagnation in health improvement, which is in sharp contrast to the nation’s average annual improvement of 1.5 percent between 1990 and 2000. The failure to demonstrate progress is particularly worrisome given that the U.S. continues to trail other nations in important health indicators such as infant mortality and healthy life expectancy, according to the report.

Vermont is the healthiest state in the nation this year, surpassing Minnesota, which is ranked second, followed by Hawaii (3), New Hampshire (4) and Connecticut (5).

The bottom five are predominantly Southern states, according to the data: Mississippi ranks as the least healthy state, preceded by Louisiana (49), Arkansas (48), Oklahoma (47) and Tennessee (46).

This year the report analyzes a comprehensive set of 20 related health measures, such as smoking, binge drinking, violent crime, infectious disease, high school graduation, health status and several measures of mortality. The analysis of this comprehensive set of factors allows for a more complete view of the health of the nation than only death-related statistics.

Among key national findings:

• Since the first report in 1990,America’s Health Rankingshas shown an 18.4 percent improvement in the nation’s overall health. This national success can be attributed mostly to the reduction of several health determinants, such as infectious diseases, smoking, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths and violent crime. Other contributing factors include fewer children living in poverty and more ninth graders graduating high school within four years now than in 1990.

• Over the last six years, however, the nation’s health has virtually stagnated. Several reasons for this are obesity; a growing number of uninsured — 47 million Americans are living without health insurance, up 5 percent from last year; and persistent lack of progress in key health measures such as tobacco use, violent crime and children in poverty.

• Obesity has increased from 11.6 percent of the population in 1990 to more than 25 percent today. More than 55 million Americans are obese and as a result are at significant risk for other diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.