Where Does Your County Rank as Far As Health?

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So how healthy is your county? Now you can find out!

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has created a County Health Rankings & Roadmaps website that helps you determine how your county stacks up based on a model that involves a variety of factors, including diet and exercise.

    The rankings are based on a model of population health that takes into account many factors that, when improved, can help make the communities into healthier places to live.  The model includes the following:

    • Policies and programs – There are two categories here. The first is physical environment, which includes built environment (human-made resources and infrastructures, such as buildings, roads, parks, restaurants and grocery stores) and environmental quality (clean air and water). The second category is social and economic factors.  This includes education (better education is equated with improved health outcomes for the individual and their children), employment (unemployment places a person at risk for various health concerns), income (income and financial resources), family and social support (quality of relationships among family members and with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, as well as involvement in community life), and community safety (violence and crime).
    • Health factors – There are two categories in this group. The first is clinical care, which includes access to care and quality of care (defined by the Institute of Medicine as “the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge” and these services have the characteristics of safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered). The second category is access to care (comprehensive coverage, providers that accept the individual’s health insurance, relatively close proximity of providers to patients, and having primary care providers in the community). The second category is health behaviors. This category includes tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use and sexual activity.

    These factors lead to health outcomes, which represent how healthy a county is. This is measured in two ways: mortality (how long people live) and morbidity (how healthy people feel while alive). The model measures premature deaths, which are those before the age of 75. Morbidity is based on health-related quality of life (overall health, physical health and mental health) as well as birth outcomes (babies born with a low birth weight).

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    The website also offers suggestions of policies and programs that can improve healthy in your county. These suggestions are based on the categories listed above. For instance, the website currently offers 39 suggestions related to diet and exercise. These include:

    • Fitness programs offered in community settings.
    • Nutrition and physical activity interventions in preschool and child care settings.
    • Activity programs for older adults.
    • Individually-adapted health behavior change, which focus on increasing physical activity by teaching behavioral skills that aid participants in incorporating physical activity into their daily routine.
    • Social support in community settings.
    • Breastfeeding promotion programs.
    • Multi-component obesity prevention interventions.
    • Point-of-decision prompts to encourage physical activity.
    • Enhance and/or expand school-based physical education.
    • Worksite obesity prevention interventions.
    • School fruit and vegetable gardens.
    • Competitive pricing in schools.
    • Safe Routes to Schools.
    • Extracurricular activities that provide physical activity.
    • Financial rewards for employee healthy behavior.
    • School-based obesity prevention interventions.
    • Community-wide campaigns.
    • Farm-to-school programs.
    • WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition programs.
    • Increase fruit and vegetable availability.
    • Taste testing new fruits and vegetables.
    • Healthy vending machine options.
    • Limit access to competitive food in schools.
    • School-based nutrition education programs.
    • Point-of-decision prompts related to healthy food choices.
    • Nutrition standards for food sold in schools.
    • Label nutrition information at restaurants.
    • Recreational sports leagues for adults.
    • Family-based social support.
    • Electronic Benefit Transfer payment at farmers markets.
    • Healthy foods at catered events.
    • Reduce or eliminate advertising of non-nutritious foods and beverages.
    • Make water available and promote consumption.
    • Snack taxes for unhealthy snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages.
    • Food buying clubs and co-ops.
    • Classroom-based health education focused on providing information.
    • College-based obesity prevention interventions.
    • Mass media campaigns to increase physical activity.
    • Prohibit sale of non-nutritious food at school fundraisers.

    So what should you do? First of all, check to see how your county does on the foundation’s metrics. Then share the information with your elected officials, employers and other community group leaders. Encourage them to take steps to make your county healthier. And of course, get involved in this effort too!

    Primary Source for This Sharepost:

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2013). County Health Ranks & Roadmaps.

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Published On: March 28, 2013