Mar 29, 2017

2017 County Rankings Let Residents Measure Health

2017 County Rankings Let Residents Measure HealthEvery year, each county in the country has its pulse taken. How healthy are the residents—are they working, are they safe, do they smoke, what are the education rates? What is the quality of the air they breathe and water they drink, and how easily can they get around without a car?

The 2017 pulse-taking is now public, courtesy of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The 2017 County Health Rankings & Roadmap is intended to let counties and residents take a look in the mirror, see trends over time and as they compare with trends at the state and national level.

Though it’s called a ranking, the annual report is not a competition among counties. Far from it: The idea is to show how factors outside medical care have a huge influence on health; even more ideally, the findings are intended to motivate people to take action.

Four broad categories—health behaviors; clinical care; social and economic factors; and physical environment are broken down into even finer categories of measure. For example, you can search on “food insecurity” and find the numbers and percentage of those in your county who have limited access to healthy foods. You can learn what is driving the differences, county to county; you can even find out how to take action.

Complementing this look at how healthy communities are is the AARP Livability Index, which scores communities and neighborhoods in seven categories, including housing, transportation, and engagement, and opportunity. Like the county rankings, the goal is to let people know where their communities stand and encourage them to make their communities more livable. The AARP Public Policy Institute this year unveiled a new feature when it began tracking efforts being made to change policies to improve communities.