Report Card Says Mass. Lags In Health

A new report says Massachusetts has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to helping people avoid the doctor's office by leading a healthy lifestyle.

The report released Tuesday (PDF) by the Boston Foundation and the New England Healthcare Institute scored the state on 14 areas of public health. The state earned no A's and five B's for efforts to build walking paths and bike lanes, promote farmers' markets and encourage workplace health programs.

Mary Jo Meisner, a vice president with the Boston Foundation, says the problem isn't where the state is now — it's the direction it's heading.

"It's important to realize that we're starting in a very good place," Meisner said. "It's just that we want to put the warning out because our trends are going in the wrong direction, and we want to get that stopped."

Massachusetts got an F for exempting sodas and other sugary drinks from the state sales tax. It also received low marks for a lack of supermarkets in many parts of the state and in daily exercise among high school students.

Meisner blamed the lack of a physical education requirement for some of that downward trend.

"Massachusetts high school students were just ranked 50th in the country in terms of the inactivity of our high school students," she said. "And a lot of that has to do with the fact that there's no activity requirement in our schools."

The report recommends potential solutions such as restoring funding for public health projects and increasing taxes on sodas and candy.

With reporting from the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

This program aired on July 19, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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