Rate the Health of Your State

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Thanks to a new report card released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, Americans can learn how their community ranks among the other 3,000 counties in the US on healthy behaviors.

The report known as “County Health Rankings” is intended to compare counties within a state for health status, but shouldn’t be used for comparing states with each other.

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For the report, researchers gathered both federal and state health-related data from each county. The report ranks each in two ways: “Health Outcomes” and “Health Factors”. Outcomes are derived from a county’s disease and death rates. Factors included such behaviors as obesity rate, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unemployment rates, environmental issues, and access to health care that can be used to predict future health.

According to the report, healthier counties tend to be urban and suburban, while the majority of the least health counties are rural and economically depressed.

Other findings from the report:
Premature death rates: The least healthy counties have significantly higher rates of premature death—2.5 times higher than the healthiest counties.
Self-reported health: People living in the least healthy counties reporting being in significantly poorer health—2.1 times higher rates of people who report being in fair or poor health, compared with the healthiest counties.
Smoking rates: People living in the least healthy counties are much more likely to smoke—over 26%, compared to only 16% in the healthiest counties.
Preventable hospitalizations: People living in the least healthy counties are 60% more likely to be admitted to the hospital for preventable conditions—a sign of poor outpatient and primary care.
Children living in poverty: The least healthy counties have higher rates of poverty, with 30% of children living in poverty—over three times higher than the rate in the healthiest counties (9%).
Access to healthy foods: The 50 least healthy counties have fewer places where people can find healthy food—only 33% of zip codes have at least one grocery store, compared to almost half (47%) of zip codes in the healthiest counties.

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