5. Rhode Island
- Requires the state's department of health to prepare mercury-alert notices, explaining the danger of consuming mercury-contaminated fish to pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Offers the third-highest number of pediatricians per capita in the U.S. -- one for every 725 children under 18
- Has the the third-lowest percentage of uninsured children in the nation, with less than 5% going without coverage
Rhode Island boasts the highest rate of early-childhood vaccinations in the country. By age 3, 82% of the state's children have received the full complement of vaccines suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In some states, just over 60% of kids are up-to-date with their immunizations.
Rhode Island is able to get more children vaccinated than its neighbors because the state calls the shots. "We're one of 10 states that buy vaccines for kids and distribute them free to doctors," says Susan Shepardson, chief of immunizations for the state of Rhode Island in Providence.
Elsewhere, she explains, physicians purchase vaccines from pharmaceutical companies, then fill out paperwork to get reimbursed by insurers. Kids who don't have health insurance may not be vaccinated. Says Shepardson: "We're fortunate that children are never denied vaccinations because of the cost."