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Nevadans are so accustomed to seeing their state at the wrong end of national rankings that it appears to be news when the state improves.

Last week, Nevada moved up five places in annual rankings produced by the United Health Foundation. The news got heavy attention, such as front page play in Carson City’s Appeal and lead position in the noon newscast of one Reno television station.

The state’s residents got points for less obesity, a lower rate of infectious disease and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations. Smoking in the state dropped 7.7 percent over a 10-year period.

However, poverty rose 5.7 percent in a single year. Other factors that counted against Nevada were a high violent crime rate and a low rate of high school graduation.

Asked why the education level figured in health care rankings, epidemiologist and foundation spokesperson Sarah Milder said, “Studies indicate that general socio-economic conditions and education levels are associated with the healthiness of a community’s residents. High school graduation is an indicator of education level and education is a vital contributor to health as consumers must be able to learn about, create and maintain a healthy lifestyle and understand and participate in their options of care.”