Whether you reside in Clallam County, Wash., Miami-Dade County, Fla., or somewhere in between, where you live affects your health. That’s the conclusion of the 2014 County Health Rankings report released today.

The report, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranks how U.S. counties compare on 29 factors that impact health such as smoking, unemployment and high school graduation rates. This year’s report, the fifth annual, includes seven new measures: housing, transit, access to mental health providers, injury-related deaths, food environment and access to exercise opportunities.

“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings — where we live, learn, work and play,” said Bridget Catlin, director of the County Health Rankings, in a news release.

People living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to live shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties, according to the report. The least healthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and double the teen births.

What makes a county healthy?

The report reveals key factors that help define health in a county. Residents of the healthiest counties enjoy better access to healthy foods, parks and gyms. More residents have enough food to eat and better access to health providers. They also graduate high school and college at higher rates, and have fewer preventable hospital stays.

Least healthy counties have higher rates of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, teen births and sexually transmitted infections. They have higher unemployment, more children in poverty, higher violent crime, more deaths due to injuries and more people with too little social support. The least healthy counties also have more overcrowded households, homes that lack adequate facilities to cook, clean or bathe, and too little affordable housing.

Nationally, the report found a number of positive trends including the following:

• Teen birth rates have declined about 25 percent since 2007;
• The rate of preventable hospital stays decreased about 20 percent from 2003 to 2011; and
• Smoking rates dropped from 21 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2012.

“The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the foundation.

The rankings will be officially released during a webcast today at 12:30 p.m. EDT. To find out how your county measures up, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Similar themes of how where you live affects your health and well-being will be the focus of APHA’s 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans, Nov. 15-19.

 

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