Find Where Your County Ranks When it Comes to Health

The recent release of the 2013 County Health Rankings, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, provides Colorado policymakers and local health leaders with new insights on the health and well-being of our counties as well as resources and “roadmaps” for tackling complex, but critical, health issues.

The annual analysis ranks the health of 59 of Colorado’s 64 counties by compiling county-level measures from several national and state data sources. Using a model of population health that accounts for many factors that impact health, the rankings consider health outcomes, such as premature death and low birth weight, but also health factors such as education and employment, alcohol use and environmental quality.  For example, the rankings show that 88 percent of ninth-graders graduate in four years in Grand County while 70 percent graduate in four years in Garfield County. The overall Colorado rate is 72 percent.

Overall category rankings are devised by combining measures within health outcomes and health factors. Pitkin County again ranks first overall in health outcomes while Douglas County continues its No. 1 ranking in overall health factors.

Many counties with lower health factor rankings also fall toward the bottom of the health outcomes rankings, a reflection of how the two are often connected.  But some counties don’t fit this mold. Yuma County, for example, ranks in the middle of the pack on health factors overall but is in the top ten counties on overall health outcomes.

The County Health Rankings are just one resource for health data and information. Colorado has identified 10 Winnable Battles to improve health and the environment, addressing such issues as oral health, obesity and water quality through evidence-based strategies. Colorado is measuring progress on these efforts through specific indicators that are not all represented in the County Health Rankings. Colorado’s local public health agencies are also using a robust set of public health indicators to conduct community health assessments and prioritize issues through the statewide public health improvement process.

When you check out the County Health Rankings, be sure to look at the Roadmaps to Health. A unique resource these Roadmaps can contribute to the discussion and planning at local and state levels by providing tools and resources to improve health.

Here at the Colorado Health Institute, we are especially excited about What Works for Health, an interactive inventory of evidence-informed policies and programs.

The County Health Rankings help state leaders as well as local leaders and communities identify where resources and attention may create greatest impact. We are here to help make sense of the data and what it means for the health of all Coloradans. 

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.