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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
RWJF Highlights County Efforts to Use the County Health Rankings to Improve Community HealthNew

Written by Andrew Whitacre, NACo Health Associate.

Image by Flickr user Visit Florida.

This post is based on conversations with Jennifer Nixon, Executive Director of the Rockingham County Healthcare Alliance and Dr. Connie White, Deputy Commissioner of Clinical Affairs at the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

In conjunction with the release of the 2014 County Health Rankings, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) held events in Rockingham County, N.C. and Grant County, Ky. to highlight their work with the County Health Rankings to drive critical community health improvement efforts in their counties.

Rockingham County, N.C.

Rockingham County, N.C., is a small, rural county with a population of 91,000 residents. The county is situated on the border with Virginia, just north of Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. When the initial County Health Rankings were released in 2010, county officials were surprised by their low ranking in the state — they ranked in the bottom quartile in health factors and near the bottom quartile in health outcomes. At first, county leaders focused on the areas that the county ranked lowest in, primarily health behaviors and access to care; however, after their efforts stalled, the county shifted focus on creating a culture of health across all communities in the county.

The County Health Rankings served as a catalyst in the county, prompting leaders to formulate a task force which developed a long-term initiative, which began with creation of the Healthcare Alliance. The county utilized the first few years of the County Health Rankingsto drive participation in the initiat...

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2 days ago | 0

Rural Assistance Center Releases New Health Tools for Rural CountiesNew

​Written by Andrew Whitacre, NACo Health Associate.
The Rural Assistance Center recently launched a series of resources aimed at providing accurate data that relates the needs of rural counties. These tools are available to assist rural counties in finding and utilizing data on rural health to inform decision-making and communicate the health needs of rural communities. Below are descriptions and a link for each resource.

  • Finding Statistics and Data Related to Rural Health
    The Rural Assistance Center Topic Guide provides information on understanding rural health needs and health disparities between rural and urban counties. The resource also describes how to locate and use statistics and data in order to communicate rural health needs and information decision-making on these issues.

  • Data Sources & Tools Relevant to Rural Health
    This resource is a collection of data sources focused on healthcare services, health status, demographics, and social determinants of health. For each source, it identifies the topics covered, ease of use, geographic level of data, and update frequency.

  • Selecting Rural Data in American Factfinder
    This  is a step-by-step Slideshare presentation that shows two methods for selecting rural data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Factfinder tool, which is a data set that provides a number of statistics describing the U.S. population. The presentation ...

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3 days ago | 0

(NACo Podcasts) Counties & National Drug Control Policy


The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) plays a pivotal role in advising the President, coordinating the federal drug control budget, and prioritizing efforts across the federal government through the annual National Drug Control Strategy. Acting Director Michael Botticelli discusses the role of his office, the priorities of the federal drug strategy, and the impact counties have on federal efforts through their role in administering local criminal justice and health systems.

Subscribing to NACo Podcasts is simple.  If you are using an Apple device, while on your device, click the "Subscribe Via iTunes" button below.  Once subscribed, new episdoes will beautomatically pushed to your device.  For other devices, subscribe via RSS, or download today's episode directly to your device.  Click here for a full listing of NACo Podcasts episodes.



4 days ago | 0

Beyond Electricity: Three Counties are Big Fans of Wind Energy

Written by Alix Kashdan, Community & Economic Development Intern.

Photo from Benton County, Indiana

In recent years, American communities have faced the related concerns of rising energy prices, threats from climate change and economic insecurity.  Sherman County, Oregon; Benton County, Indiana; and Huron County, Michigan have addressed these issues by adopting innovative approaches to wind energy, solving a range of diverse problems from preserving farmland to eliminating county debt.

Sherman County, located in northern Oregon, is an agricultural county with a population of 1,731.  The county currently boasts over 500 wind turbines located on several wind farms, which in 2011 produced enough energy to power 100,000 homes.  In 2009, the county launched its Resident Compensation Program, a unique project which divides a portion of wind energy revenues into annual payments for each household in the county (in 2011, for instance, each household received nearly $600).  Sherman County, via contracts with wind companies, has ensured that payments to residents will continue through 2025 as part of the program that County Judge Gary Thompson described as “very popular.”  In addition to the money awarded to each household, annual payments are made to each of the county’s four towns.  Revenue from wind energy has extended even further, ...

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4 days ago | 0

Upcoming Webinar: Relating Restoration Activities to Broader Watershed Outcomes

Written by Jen Horton, NACo Program Manager.

The Philadelphia Water Department Ecological Restoration Group discusses design considerations with volunteers at the Cobbs Creek Habitat Restoration workshop.

Many local communities across the country are pursuing environmental restoration projects to prevent or reduce pollution and environmental degradation.  With this, local leaders are aligning their restoration goals with broader community goals and benefits related to public health, environmental stewardship, watershed management and recreational opportunities, to name a few.

To learn more about successful environmental programs, partnerships and initiatives, join the upcoming Five Star and Urban Waters restoration webinar Relating Restoration Activities to Broader Watershed Outcomes on Tuesday, August 26th from 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM ET.  Participants will learn from non-profit and corporate leaders and partners who will discuss how they have connected recreation, public health and other community benefits to their restoration projects. 

This webinar is the fifth in the 10-part Cultivating Community Conservation: Techniques, Engagement and Education series, part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program.

If you missed the last webinar on education and learning outcomes, you can view the recorded session here.

If you’d like to participate as a presenter in an upcoming webinar, or have general questions about the series, email Jen Horton at for more information.​

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8 days ago | 0

Key Factors to Optimizing Integration of County Services and Programs

Written by Emmanuelle St. Jean, NACo Program Manager.
Over the last several months county leaders have discussed improving the health of their communities by breaking down silos and connecting agencies and programs. While there is no one-size-fits-all model or process for integrating services, some common factors have emerged as relevant to counties. Whether integrating behavioral health services with primary care or linking health and social services systems, the following factors have emerged (1) leadership, (2) shared vision, (3) strong partnerships, (4) data and technology and (5) people-centered efforts.

  1. Through leadership a new culture of collaboration and coordination can be created and implemented. County leaders can develop and implement policies encouraging coordination between various agencies to achieve a particular goal. For example, data are not often shared across agencies, despite serving the same populations for a variety of reasons, including laws and regulations. Identifying certain data that can be shared, leaders can institute policies to allow the data to be shared across agencies for an initiative and again in the future.

  2. A shared vision is essentially a roadmap to achieving outcomes. It creates a framework in which stakeholders can determine where they “fit in” and what role they may play. Although articulating a single share...

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10 days ago | 0

Four Apps That Change the Way County Governments Operate

This is a post from HP's Innnovation Nation, a blog series highlighting new and innovative solutions in the U.S. Public Sector.  It was written by Joshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company.  Click here to view the original post.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project in January 2014:

  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone

  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone

  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader

  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Sixty percent of all cell phone owners use their phone to access the internet. With the continued growth in people using mobile technology, government entities must leverage this channel to engage its citizens and improve services in their communities – but how?

Well, here’s a start:  I discovered four cool mobile apps developed by county governments across the United States while attending the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2014 Annual Conference.  My discoveries came during the App Smackdown contest, which was a competition for county CIOs to submit Apps their county created.  It was amazing to see the different ways counties are using mobility to improve citizen engagement and services to its residents.  Of course there was some smack talk as well, which made the event entertaining as well as informative.  Here are four cool apps that are changing the way counties do business:

Bexar County, TX: Bexar County Augmented Reality Appwas developed in-house and uses ...

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10 days ago | 0

(NACo Podcasts) Partnering to Build Resilient Counties


NACo recently sat down with NACo immediate past president, Supervisor Linda Langston, to discuss her presidential initiative, Resilient Counties. Through the initiative, NACo worked with county leaders and their stakeholders to bolster their ability to thrive amid changing physical, social and economic conditions. In this episode, Supervisor Langston looks back on the highlights of the initiative, discusses the importance of this topic for counties and previews what we can expect from NACo moving forward.

Subscribing to NACo Podcasts is simple.  If you are using an Apple device, while on your device, click the "Subscribe Via iTunes" button below.  Once subscribed, new episdoes will beautomatically pushed to your device.  For other devices, subscribe via RSS, or download today's episode directly to your device.  Click here for a full listing of NACo Podcasts episodes.


(This po​dcast features music by Christian Bjoerklund, YACT, Broke For Free, Johnny Ripper and Patrick Lee.)

2 weeks ago | 0

RWJF to Host a Google Hangout on the Culture of Health Prize

Written by Andrew Whitacre​, NACo Health Associate.
Event Description:

The RWJF Culture of Health Prize honors communities that place a high priority on health and bring partners together to drive local change. Twelve communities, selected from hundreds across the nation, have been selected over the past two years. 

On August 14 at 2pm ET, representatives from three of these communities will discuss what it takes to build a Culture of Health. They will also talk about some of the barriers their communities have faced and how they overcame them, how they have forged critical partnerships, what the Prize application process was like and what they've gained from their Prize experience.  

Panelists include:

  • Moderator: Julie Willems Van Dijk, co-director, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, RWJF Culture of Health Prize. 

  • Williamson, West Virginia (2014 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner): Dino Beckett, CEO of the Williamson Health and Wellness Center and Board Chair of Williamson Redevelopment Authority

​​Williamson is a community that is reimagining its coal resources to support sustainability, health and entrepreneurism. It may sound like an oxymoron, but Williamson, W.Va., is doing just that. Williamson leads West Virginia in categories such as obesity, hypertension...
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2 weeks ago | 0

(NACo Podcasts) Building Transportation & Infrastructure


NACo recently sat down with new NACo President, Riki Hokama, to discuss his upcoming presidential initiative on transportation and infrastructure. The initiative addresses the county role in promoting investments that support economic competitiveness, improve passenger travel, foster creative partnerships, ensure safety and enhance community quality of life.

Subscribing to NACo Podcasts is simple.  If you are using an Apple device, while on your device, click the "Subscribe Via iTunes" button below.  Once subscribed, new episdoes will be automatically pushed to your device.  For other devices, subscribe via RSS, or download today's episode directly to your device.  Click here for a full listing of NACo Podcasts episodes.


(This po​dcast features music by Johnny Nobles Hawaiians, Kevin MacLeod, Michael Chapman, Monster On Campus, and Party People in a Can.) 

3 weeks ago | 0

New Resources for Local Leaders Interested in Juvenile Justice Reform

​Written by Kathy Rowings, NACo Justice Associate

IACP summit report cover (2).jpgThe International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released its report on Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in Juvenile Justice Reform: Actionable Recommendations for Practice & Policy. IACP held a summit on law enforcement leadership in juvenile justice, which drew attention to the often untapped potential of law enforcement executives to improve their agencies’ response to young people and to serve as credible voices for “smart on crime” juvenile justice reforms in their communities and beyond.  The summit report sets forth 33 recommendations for concrete actions that law enforcement leaders can take in collaboration with partners at the local, state, and national levels.  The report is available at

JJIssueBriefCover.pngThe Council for State Governments Justice Center (CSG), along with the National Reentry Resource Center, also released two publications with recommendations for what local governments can do to improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. The first publication, Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data to Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation, provides state and local policymakers with five recommendations for improving their approach to the measurement, analysis, collection, reporting and use of recidivism data for youth involved with the juvenile justice system and provides examples of how a number of states have t...

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3 weeks ago | 0

OnTheMap for Emergency Management

​Written by Alyssum Pohl, NOAA Digital Coast Fellow.

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a public data tool maintained by the U.S. Census that can be used to access population and workforce data in real time for areas affected by natural disasters.   OnTheMap is based on an interactive, intuitive-to-use web-based map.  In addition to the map, users can view social, economic and housing data down to the county level, which may be used to infer the potential effects of disasters on local populations.  Maps can be linked to or shared and events can be searched.  Hazard events include hurricanes, floods, wildfires, winter storms and federal disaster declaration areas.  Data have been provided by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Federal Emergency Management Agency and United States Census Bureau.  Explore OnTheMap here.

3 weeks ago | 0