Counties ranked online on overall health factors

Healthcare providers interested in finding out where their counties measure up in terms of how healthy their residents are and what factors--ranging from access to healthcare, tobacco use, obesity, employment, safety and air quality--are impacting that health, can examine new online health rankings released today.

"These rankings tell us that where we live matters to our health," said Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, at a March 30 telebriefing. This second annual release of county health rankings was compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"The rankings are the only annual checkup for the over 3,000 counties in the nation," Remington said. The rankings can be used by individuals to compare the overall health of their counties against other counties in their state, and also with top-performing counties nationwide on specific health factors.

Like last year's rankings, researchers used specific measures to assess health outcomes by county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who reported being in fair or poor health; the number of days in poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants.

Information also was collected on about 25 other factors that affect the health of communities--"information about the quality of healthcare, lifestyles, social and economic factors, and also measures of the environment," Remington said.

Among the general findings of the study: counties with urban communities are the least healthy in their state; counties with suburbs adjacent to these urban areas are healthier but often have very polluted air and poor environmental conditions; and rural counties often tended to have the overall poorer health factors. "But it's really important to understand that each county is different," Remington noted.

For more details:
- see the online health rankings website
- view the County Health Rankings release

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