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County-By-County Report Sizes Up Americans’ Health

A new ranking of nearly every county in the nation shows significant disparities in the overall health of residents, depending on where they live. 

Researchers from University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used data on premature deaths, self-reports about health and factors such as smoking rates, obesity, teen births, the percentage of children in poverty and number of liquor stores vs. grocery stores to rank more than 3,000 counties nationwide against others in their state. 

Researchers then chose each state’s healthiest county and compared it to each state’s unhealthiest county.  Here are some of the findings: 

Suburban and urban counties tend to be healthier than rural counties. About 48 percent of the healthiest counties were urban or suburban, while 84 percent of the unhealthiest counties were rural. 

The unhealthiest counties had 2.5 times the premature death rate, or people who die under age 75, than the healthiest counties. 

Residents of the unhealthiest counties were more than twice as likely to consider themselves in fair or poor health than those in the healthiest counties. 

Those in the least healthy counties were 60 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital for a preventable conditions. Misuse of hospitals for non-emergency or preventable conditions is often a symptom of not having access to outpatient care and primary care doctors, either because of lack of insurance or lack of providers. 

Children are three times more likely to live in poverty in the least healthy counties (30 percent) compared to the healthiest counties (9 percent). 

Counties ranked the unhealthiest are less likely to have at least one grocery store where people can buy healthy foods such as fresh produce. About 33 percent of zip codes in the unhealthiest counties had a grocery store, while 47 percent of zip codes in the healthiest counties had a grocery store. 

In the study, researchers ranked counties on two overall measures: health outcomes, which included information on mortality, self-reported health and low birth weight babies; and about 25 other factors that can impact health but don’t directly measure it. Those factors included rates of motor vehicle accidents, uninsured adults and violent crime; the number of primary care doctors in an area and usage of hospice for the terminally ill; measures of air pollution, liquor store density and the percentage of high school and college graduates.

Click here to view the reporthttp://www.countyhealthrankings.org/ 

Posted by the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which educates Americans about information pertaining to cancer and heart disease and other health matters.

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