Category Archives: County Health Rankings

Jun 16 2014
Comments

Recommended Reading: America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids

file

“At 10 a.m. on any given morning, the kids at low-income San Francisco schools are starting to fidget. Their teachers report they’re having trouble concentrating, asking how long ‘til they eat...Then the snacks arrive, delivered by volunteers from the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. They serve string cheese one week; baby carrots, mandarin oranges or apple slices the next.”

Because of this and other programs, Marin County, Calif. tops the U.S. News & World Report’s new rankings of “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids,” part of its annual guide on the nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals. The new rankings, for children 18 and younger, are calculated in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which also evaluates health data for the U.S. population as part of its  County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The rankings analyze U.S. counties according to several key measures, including:

  • Infant deaths
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Deaths from injuries
  • Teen births
  • Children in poverty
  • Percentage of children without health insurance
  • Air quality in most states
  • Rates of adult smoking and adult obesity
  • Access to physicians
  • Exercise opportunities

In addition to the rankings, the U.S. News story also highlights six communities that have made significant advancements toward improving the health of their kids, including:

  • Santa Clara, Calif., where a policy stipulates that 50 percent of food and beverages sold in countywide vending machines must meet nutrition guidelines.
  • Washington County, R.I., where the policy organization Kids Count is dedicated to improving children’s health, education, economic well-being and safety.
  • Middlesex County, Mass., which includes the city of Cambridge—one of RWJF’s Culture of Health Prize winners last year—and where fun physical education classes keep kids active while healthy school meals celebrate cultural diversity.

Read the full story, “America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids.”

Apr 7 2014
Comments

First Friday Google+ Hangout: How County Health Rankings Can Improve Health

On Friday, April 4, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation held a First Friday Google+ Hangout to explore how the 2014 County Health Rankings can be used to move the needle toward healthy communities. Hosted by Susan Dentzer, RWJF senior policy advisor, the Hangout featured four panelists from various sectors working to improve the health of U.S. communities.

file Marjorie Paloma, RWJF

Marjorie Paloma, Senior Policy Advisor at the Foundation, provided viewers with an overview of the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, explaining that the rankings continue to show that where we live matters to our health. The rankings allow each state to see how counties compare on a number of health factors, including housing, education, income and safety. The Rankings offer a look at health trends across the country in addition to county-level information. This year’s Rankings find that people who live in the least health communities are twice as likely to live shorter lives and that we are slowly seeing an uptick in the number of children living in poverty. However, there have been significant declines in smoking rates and violent crime.

“The Rankings really help us to see how we’re doing and also where we can improve on health,” said Paloma. “The Roadmaps are really a call to action. They are really helping to move communities from awareness to driving action.”

Paloma also highlighted the broad range of resources available through the County Health Rankings website for communities to find and develop health solutions.

file Brian Smedley, Health Policy Inst.

According to Brian Smedley, Vice President and Director, Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the County Health Rankings is critical in understanding the importance of place as an upstream driver of health. Transportation, housing, opportunities for experience, quality of greenspace and more can be critical in determining the health of a community and the individuals who call it home. He explained that successful Roadmaps communities are ones that have built coalitions across different sectors and have health policy strategies that are local.

“We need to look at smaller geographic areas to see how neighborhoods affect health,” said Smedley. “A lens on place can be powerful in helping us to understand how we can reduce risks at the individual level and the community level.” He also offered additional tools for acquiring even finer cuts of data, such as Community Commons, local health departments and the U.S. Census Bureau.

file Mary Lou Goeke, United Way

Mary Lou Goeke, Executive Director, United Way of Santa Cruz County, offered a look at how the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps are used to improve health in Santa Cruz by shining a light on areas that need improvement and mobilizing the community to action. In particular, Goeke highlighted Santa Cruz’s efforts to reconcile a correlation between drinking rates and violent crime with the city’s new entertainment district. By using the data, the community was able to mitigate the potential harm of the entertainment district by implementing evidence-based practices to decrease drinking and crime.

“The County Health Rankings hold us accountable for things that aren’t working and encourages us to find new approaches,” said Goeke.

file Katie Loovis, GlaxoSmithKline

Katie Loovis, Director of U.S. Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement, GlaxoSmithKline, explained how her company uses the rankings to shape its philanthropic efforts across the country. In the past few years, GlaxoSmithKline employees have overwhelming expressed support for the company to improve health in communities.

“If you want to improve health in your community, you have to know where you’re starting,” said Loovis. “The rankings do just that.” GlaxoSmithKline relies on the roadmaps to help highlight which interventions have the science to back them up and to identify which nonprofits to partner with in their target communities.

In addition, Loovis encourages local health departments and non-profits to reach out to local businesses directly and invite them to get involved in the solutions.

Apr 2 2014
Comments

Join RWJF on Friday, April 4 for a Google+ Hangout on the 2014 County Health Rankings

Last week the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released its 2014 County Health Rankings, an annual assessment of how where we live, learn, work and play impacts our health. This coming Friday, April 4 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. ET, RWJF will be hosting a First Friday Google+ Hangout focused on the how the County Health Rankings can be used to help spur business, government, public health, education and other sectors to work together to create healthier communities.

>>Go here to register for Friday’s event.

Susan Dentzer, senior policy adviser to the Foundation, will lead the discussion exploring the Rankings’ key findings and how they have inspired communities to take meaningful action to improve health.

Panelists will include:

file Katie Loovis, GlaxoSmithKline

Katie Loovis, Director of U.S. Community Partnerships and Stakeholder Engagement, GlaxoSmithKline, will discuss how good health is good for business. When more people in a community are healthy, there are lower health costs, fewer sick days and increased productivity, according to Loovis. And when communities are healthier, everyone in the community benefits.

 

file Mary Lou Goeke, United Way

Mary Lou Goeke, Executive Director, United Way of Santa Cruz County, will discuss how the United Way uses the County Health Rankings’ framework to mobilize people and organizations to use good data and evidence to identify joint priorities; develop and implement collaborative solution; build public will; and engage in advocacy to improve education, financial stability and health. Santa Cruz County won an inaugural RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize, which honors outstanding community partnerships helping people to live healthier lives.

 

file Brian Smedley, Health Policy Inst.

Brian Smedley, Vice President and Director, Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, will discuss how where you live plays a significant factor in how healthy you are. The Joint Center runs a national initiative called PLACE MATTERS to build the capacity of local leaders around the country to improve social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health. The learning community consists of 19 teams working in 27 jurisdictions.

 

file Marjorie Paloma, RWJF

Marjorie Paloma, Senior Policy Adviser, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), who will discuss the foundation’s partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in producing the County Health Rankings, as well as the many online tools that can help communities compare rankings, delve more deeply into the data and learn more about particular interventions that can address community health issues.

 

>>Bonus Links: Read up on some of the panelists:

Mar 31 2014
Comments

County Health Rankings — Nurse-Family Partnership: Q&A with Elly Yost

file

Rockingham County, N.C., is one of several counties profiled in videos produced for the 2014 report of the County Health Rankings, a joint project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and released yesterday. The Rankings shows how communities across the country are doing and how they can improve on their health.

Rockingham evolved from a wealthy county to a poor one very quickly after losing two major industries only a couple of decades ago. The community suffers from high general smoking rates, high obesity rates and high rates of smoking during pregnancy. When the 2010 County Health Rankings were released, Rockingham was ranked at 71 out of 100 counties on health measures. The community's poor standing served as a wake-up call.

One new program set to begin this spring is the Nurse-Family Partnership, a decades-old, evidence-based community health program that serves low-income women pregnant with their first child.

Nurse-Family Partnership is based on the work of David Olds, MD, a professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Denver. While working in an inner-city day care center in the early 1970s, Olds was struck by the risks and difficulties in the lives of low-income children and over the next decades tested nurse home visitation for low income families in randomized controlled trials in Elmira, New York, Memphis, Tennessee and Denver. Results have shown that the program improved pregnancy outcomes; improved the health and development of children; and helped parents create a positive life course for themselves. There are now Nurse-Family Partnership programs in 43 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and six Indian tribal communities.

In the Nurse-Family Partnership programs, the mothers receive ongoing visits from the nurses in their homes from the first trimester until the baby is two years old. Program goals include:

  • Improve pregnancy outcomes by helping the new mothers engage in good preventive health practices, including comprehensive prenatal care from their healthcare providers, improving their diets and reducing their use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal substances.
  • Improve child health and development by helping parents provide responsible and competent care.
  • Improve the economic self-sufficiency of the family by helping parents develop a vision for their own future, plan future pregnancies, continue their education and find work.

According to Heather Adams, executive director of the Rockingham County Partnership for Children, there are about 5,000 children under the age of five in Rockingham County. Over half live in poverty and are born to mothers under the age of 20 and many of the children are in single parent households.

“The County Health Rankings really gave us some concrete data to show us what we knew anecdotally was really true,” said Adams. “Nurse-Family Partnership really rose to the top as a really strong program that could help meet some of our needs.”

As part of its County Health Rankings coverage, NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Elly Yost, MSN, PNP, director of nursing practice at the Nurse-Family Partnership national office in Denver, Co. Yost is a pediatric nurse practitioner who previously worked in hospitals and community practice settings.

Read More

Mar 27 2014
Comments

How Healthy is Your County? Watch the Webinar

Leaders from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, who collaborate each year on the County Health Rankings, held a webinar yesterday—the launch day for the 2014 report—to talk about the importance of the Rankings and what’s new this year, as well as to answer questions from a wide ranging Twitter audience.

The webcast is now available online and provides a broad and insightful overview of how the County Health Rankings are helping to improve health across the United States.

"Our vision is a nation where getting healthy, staying healthy and making sure our children grow up healthy are top priorities,” said Michelle Larkin, JD, RN, RWJF assistant vice president for portfolio programs, at the start of the webcast.

Six new measures were added to this year’s report, including housing and transportation.

“The Rankings are only as valuable as the actions they inspire,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, RN, PhD, Deputy Director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and a panelist on the webinar. She also directed viewers to the Action Center section of the Rankings website, which includes step-by-step guides for policies and activities counties can initiate to help improve health.

Videos shown during the webcast explained the health factors and outcomes that make up the rankings while showcasing efforts to improve health in Western New York, Kentucky and North Carolina. The webcast also highlighted the six 2013 Culture of Health Prize winners whose community efforts to improve health included tackling domestic violence and improving access to preschool education.

Questions poured in via Twitter during the webcast, including a query about how the Rankings have helped changed the conversation about community health.

“There has been an incredible change,” said Van Dijk. “People are starting to talk about the many factors that influence health. When we started people would say, ‘Why are issues such as employment and education in a health report?’” Added Van Dijk, “More and more, we’re seeing people understand that those factors are key determinants of health. And what that has done has increased the sense of awareness that it takes all of us to build a culture of health. We can’t just lay it at the door of hospitals and health departments.”

“We’ve seen mayors and other legislators stand up and take ownership of this report and action on changing policy, such as how people from all income levels have access to quality preschool education,” she added.

Webinar panelist Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, encouraged participants to add to the utility of the Rankings report by also using local data to help them drill down on what is impacting local communities. “Differences we see in teenage pregnancies may be two times higher in blacks than whites, but can be fifteen times higher when comparing where people live,” he said.

>>Bonus Link: Read more about the 2014 County Health Rankings reports and featured communities on NewPublicHealth.

Mar 26 2014
Comments

County Health Rankings 2014: Western New York

file

The County Health Rankings, a joint project between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows how communities across the country are doing and how they can improve on their health.

One of the communities highlighted in the 2014 report is Western New York. Across eight counties, the region struggles with a depressed economy and high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

They used the County Health Rankings to better understand their challenges and look at what types of programs and initiatives would help.

file

Innovative community partnerships include a Baby Café Program where moms can get breastfeeding support and connections to community resources to ensure every baby has a healthy start; a Healthy Streets initiative to create better infrastructure for a healthy community; and a Farm to School Program to support healthier schools. The fifth edition of the County Health Rankings continues to show us where we live matters to our health.

Mar 26 2014
Comments

County Health Rankings 2014: Rockingham County, N.C.

file

The County Health Rankings, a joint project between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows how communities across the country are doing and how they can improve on their health.

One of the communities highlighted in the 2014 report is Rockingham County, North Carolina. The community went from a wealthy county to a poor one very quickly after losing two major industries only a couple of decades ago.  

The population of about 90,000 suffers from high smoking rates, high obesity rates and high rates of smoking during pregnancy. When the 2010 County Health Rankings were released, the community's poor standing served as a wake-up call, and only a few years later the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust became involved and the county started to expand the conversation, looking at health as more than simply health care access.

file

Innovative community programs include the Virtual Farmer's Market, which gives local farmers a new market for their products while also providing them with an education on how to reach out using technology as a means for boosting small business; a planned partnership between Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine and the New Reidsville Public Housing Authority; and the planned Nurse-Family Partnership Program, which will pair home visiting nurses with at-risk moms and children up until the age of two. The fifth edition of the County Health Rankings continues to show us where we live matters to our health.

Mar 26 2014
Comments

County Health Rankings 2014: Grant County, Kentucky

file

The County Health Rankings, a joint project between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows how communities across the country are doing and how they can improve on their health.

One of the communities highlighted in the 2014 report is Grant County, Kentucky. The county has seen tremendous progress in its overall health outcomes and the health rankings, moving up from 89th to 60th place this past year relative to the state's other counties.  

The rural county — a "land of horses and tobacco farms" — has found that partnerships to improve health are absolutely essential, and that one of the advantages that smaller, more rural communities have is that it's relatively easy to bring together the business community, the churches, the schools and other groups.

file

Innovative community programs include Fitness for Life Around Grant County, or FFLAG, which led the company Performance Pipe to provide employees with healthier food options; the four-week Biggest Winner Challenge, which focuses on getting people to try out different kinds of physical activity; and tobacco-free policies on school campuses. The fifth edition of the County Health Rankings continues to show us where we live matters to our health.

Mar 26 2014
Comments

‘A Starting Point for Change’: Fifth Edition of the County Health Rankings Released Today

The fifth edition of the County Health Rankings, released today, continues to show that where we live matters to our health. The 2014 edition of the County Health Rankings finds that large gaps remain between the least healthy and the healthiest counties.

>>View the webcast of the 12:30 p.m. ET release of the new rankings here.

The County Health Rankings, first released in 2010, are a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University Of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They allow each state to see how its counties compare on 29 factors that impact health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, unemployment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.

What makes a community healthy or unhealthy? Go behind the County Health Rankings to find out.

 “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “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.”

This year’s County Health Rankings report shows some important trends, including:

  • Teen birth rates have decreased about 25 percent since 2007.
  • The rate of preventable hospital stays decreased about 20 percent from 2003 to 2011.
  • Smoking rates dropped from 21 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2012.
  • Completion of at least some college attendance increased slightly from 59 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2012.

This year’s report also features several new measures:

  • Housing: Almost 1 in 5 households are overcrowded, pose a severe cost burden, or lack adequate facilities to cook, clean, or bathe. These problems are greatest on the East and West coasts, in Alaska, and in parts of the South.
  • Transportation: More than three-quarters of workers drive to work alone and among them 33 percent drive longer than a half hour each way. Driving contributes to physical inactivity, obesity and air pollution.
  • Food Environment: People in many parts of the country face food insecurity (or the threat of hunger) and limited access to healthy foods, especially in counties in the Southwest, across parts of the South and in the Western United States.
  • Mental Health: Amid growing attention to mental health care, the availability of mental health providers in the healthiest counties in each state is 1.3 times higher than in the least healthy counties. The west and northeast regions of the country have the best access to mental health providers.
  • Injury-Related Deaths: The third-leading cause of death in the United States, injury death rates are 1.7 times higher in the least healthy counties than in the healthiest counties. These rates are particularly high in the Southwest, part of the Northwest (including Alaska) and in the East South Central and Appalachian regions.
  • Exercise Opportunities: Access to parks or recreational facilities in the healthiest counties is 1.4 times higher than in the least healthy counties.

“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings—where we live, learn, work and play,” said Bridget Caitlin, PhD, MHSA, director of the County Health Rankings. The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for business, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents and others to work together for better health.”

>>Bonus Links:

  • The County Health Rankings is part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which includes the Roadmaps to Health Action Center which provides local leaders with tools, guides and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives
  • The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps also includes the annual RWJF Culture of Health Prize, which celebrates communities that are harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners and stakeholders to build cultures of health.

The 2014 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners and the call for 2014-2015 prize applications will be announced in June at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Spotlight: Health.

Mar 5 2014
Comments

The Shasta Promise: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Charlene Ramont and Tom Armelino

file

In Shasta County, Calif., the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency is using a County Rankings & Roadmaps grant to realize the “Shasta Promise,” which helps young people in the community prepare for success in any post-secondary school option so that they can obtain high-skill, high-income jobs that will yield long-term health benefits.

High poverty rates, low educational attainment and lack of employment opportunities are among the factors that make Shasta one of the least healthy counties in California. Only 19.7 percent of Shasta County’s adult population age 25 or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.2 percent statewide. The goal of Shasta Promise is to increase awareness of and preparedness for post-secondary education. The program provides students in middle school, high school and college with the guidance and support they need to overcome barriers to pursuing higher education, and encourages a culture of college attendance among county residents.

To accomplish this, the county is implementing a newly-established College and Career Readiness Strategic Plan:

  • School leaders and counselors are being provided with a training curriculum and sessions to help them get students ready for college.
  • Parent focus groups are being convened to inform the development of an engagement plan between the schools and families.
  • Written policies are being developed for local colleges to accept all county students who meet enrollment requirement.
  • An agreement is being secured from Southern Oregon University to charge in-state tuition for Shasta County students who are admitted.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Charlene Ramont, a public health policy and program analyst with the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, and Tom Armelino, Shasta County’s Superintendent of Schools, about the Shasta Promise.

NewPublicHealth: What is the mission of the project?

Charlene Ramont: Our aim is to give every student, every option. We want all students, when they graduate from high school, to be prepared for all options post high school. When they graduate, they need to be prepared to join the military if they so choose, they need to be prepared to go to college if they so choose, they need to be prepared to go to a trade school or a certificate program.

Read More