Report examines health status of U.S. counties
A new report examines health and wellness among U.S. counties, ranking the health of nearly every county in the nation. The 2012 “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps,” issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, ranks counties on health outcomes and factors, as well as providing Roadmaps to Health grants and prizes for local health programs.
The report measures four factors that affect health, including behaviors such as alcohol use, diet and exercise; the quality of and access to clinical care; social/economic factors such as education, income and family support; and the overall physical environment. An online interactive map allows residents to see how their county stacks up.
To measure health outcomes, the report looks at mortality rates and “how healthy people feel while alive,” including their physical, mental and emotional functioning. It also examines how many babies are born with low birthweights.
Government programs and policies can affect both health factors and outcomes, the report says. That includes changing behaviors, such as encouraging diet and exercise, and targeting outcomes, such as improving longevity. The report identifies several successful community health programs.
This is the third annual county health rankings, which launched in 2010. The newer County Health Roadmaps “show what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play,” according to the report. The Roadmaps project offers technical assistance and up to $200,000 in grants to help communities improve health outcomes, as well as prizes recognizing successful community health programs.