University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation just released the annual County
Health Rankings & Roadmap for 2014
puts counties and the health of their residents center stage. The annual rankings are part of a program
launched in 2010 to show how counties are doing and where they can improve on
health. This year, the measurement tool
has six new indicators and an interactive map for easier exploration of the
The 2014 County Health Rankings assessment
tool includes 34 different ranked measures that influence the health of
Americans, such as smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, obesity
and access to exercise. The rankings are
based on measurements of two components: 29 health factors, elements that
influence health; and five health outcomes, showing the results of health behavior.
These measures come mostly from public
sources such as the U.S.
Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics
and other units of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. The health factors examine the health
behavior of county residents like smoking and drug use, access and quality of
clinical care, social and economic factors and the quality of the physical
environment. The five health outcomes range
from a measure of health-related quality of life, the number of low birth
weight children to premature deaths. The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute creates six summary
scores which sum into either a health factors summary score or a health
outcomes summary score, based
on a weighting of the indicators.
These two final summary scores then go
into the final ranking for each county within its state.
Across the nation, the rankings show some
concerning disparities in residents’ health among counties. People in the healthiest counties are twice as
likely to live longer than those in the least healthy counties. The tool also highlights the significant interaction
between socio-economic factors and health outcomes. Though teen births have fallen 25 percent between
2007 and 2011 across the country, there are twice as many teen births in the
least healthy counties compared to the healthiest. The authors also found that smoking rates
dropped from 21 to 18 percent between 2005 and 2012.
The 2014 County
Health Rankings are available on an interactive map at www.countyHealthRankings.org , where users can compare overall rankings
between counties in the same state and view the indicators that generated the
rankings for each county. In Texas, for
example, Tarrant County is in the top 25 percent of counties in the state for
resident health. Tarrant County
is ranked low for its physical environment, which includes air and water
quality as well as housing and transportation, but it outperforms almost all
other Texas counties in terms of health behaviors, such as smoking, obesity,
and access to exercise.
The rankings have a companion program called the Roadmaps to Health Action Center, which aims to motivate
and help communities implement
solutions to improve the health of their residents. The Action Center features guides, tools and stories of success. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize 2014 winners will be announced in June for communities
coming together to find health solutions across sectors. One such success story is Gem County, Idaho. Motivated by a low ranking for their health behavior
category in 2010, the county formed a partnership called the Gem County Community Health Connection to address problems in tobacco use, obesity and
chronic disease. Originally ranked last in
health behavior out of the 44 Idaho counties in 2010, they moved up to 32nd in this year’s ranking.
Together, the 2014
County Health Rankings interactive tool and its companion Roadmaps to
Health Action Center show the health status of residents in counties across the
country, and how counties can help their residents to improve their health,
whether it is increasing access to exercise facilities or improving the quality
of drinking water. The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps are
the right tools for county leaders to assess problems with the health level of
their residents and help their county residents have healthier lives.