Health and Family Services Cabinet
New National County Health Rankings Report Gives Kentuckians a Local Health Snapshot
Report Shows How Multiple Factors Can Influence Health
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 17, 2010) – The first-ever County Health Rankings report released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will provide Kentuckians—and citizens across the nation—a county-by-county snapshot of the overall health of their communities.
"We hope this new report will be useful to our counties in targeting their health efforts," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of public health in Kentucky. "The establishment of baseline data in the early years of this report will give state and local health leaders an important new tool to assist in tracking our communities' progress in continuing to tackle health issues in the years ahead. We all know that, as a state, Kentucky faces many challenges in improving our health status, but we are committed to doing so."
The County Health Rankings are the first to rank the overall health of the counties in all 50 states—more than 3,000 total—by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. Counties receive two overall rankings, one for health outcomes—which represent how healthy a county is—and one for health factors—which looks at what influences the health of the county. Boone County ranked as having the healthiest residents in Kentucky, while Woodford County ranked highest in good health factors, according to a new report.
“This report shows us that there are big differences in overall health across Kentucky's counties, due to many factors, ranging from individual behavior to quality of health care, to education and jobs, to access to healthy foods, and to quality of the air,” said Patrick Remington, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “For the first time, every person can compare the overall health of their county to the health of other counties in Kentucky, and also see where the state needs to improve.”
The online report, available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, includes a snapshot of each county in Kentucky with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Kentucky by county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health; the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants.
The report then looks at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior; clinical care; social and economic factors; and physical environment. Among the many health factors looked at were rates of adult smoking; adult obesity; binge drinking and teenage pregnancy; the number of uninsured, the availability of primary care providers and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation; number of children in poverty; rates of violent crime; access to healthy foods; air pollution levels; and liquor store density.
“These rankings demonstrate that health happens where we live, learn, work and play. And much of what influences how healthy we are and how long we live happens outside the doctor’s office,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We hope the County Health Rankings spur all sectors—government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health—to work together on solutions that address barriers to good health and help all Americans lead healthier lives.”
“It’s easier for people to lead a healthy lifestyle when they live in a healthy community—such as one that has expanded early childhood education, enacted smoke-free laws, increased access to healthier foods, or created more opportunities for physical activity,” said Remington, of the University of Wisconsin. “We hope this report can mobilize community leaders to learn what is making their residents unhealthy and take action to invest in programs and policy changes that improve health,” he added.
For more information on Kentucky's county rankings, please visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.