health outcomes and health factors in North Carolina, according to a
new report released today by the University of Wisconsin Population
Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The County
Health Rankings are the first to rank the overall health of the
counties in all 50 states – more than 3,000 total – by using a
standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they
North Carolina's healthiest counties include Mecklenburg, Wake,
Cabarrus, Union and Catawba. Counties in our area with the poorest
health include Anson, Richmond and Montgomery. The healthiest of North
Carolina's counties are clustered in the piedmont and mountains; the
least healthy counties are sprinkled primarily in the southern
Piedmont and eastern regions of the state.
"This report shows us that there are big differences in overall health
across North Carolina's counties, due to many factors, ranging from
individual behavior to quality of health care, to education and jobs,
to access to healthy foods, and to quality of the air," says Patrick
Remington, MD, MPH, associate dean for Public Health, University of
Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "For the first time,
every person can compare the overall health of their county to the
health of other counties in North Carolina, and also see where the
state needs to improve."
Mecklenburg County ranks 5th in mortality (length of life) and 9th in
morbidity (quality of life) and in the top 21 in health behaviors,
clinical care, and social and economic factors. Ongoing issues with
air quality in the County directly affected the physical environment
score, bringing down Mecklenburg's total ranking.
"We are pleased that the overall health status puts us in the top
twenty-five counties in the state," says Mecklenburg County Health
Director Wynn Mabry. "There are, however, many areas where we are
working to bring things to a higher level."
The online report, available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, includes
a snapshot of each county in North Carolina with a color-coded map
comparing each county's overall health ranking. Researchers used five
measures to assess the level of overall health or "health outcomes"
for North Carolina by county: the rate of people dying before age 75,
the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the
numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental
health, and the rate of low-birth-weight infants.
The report then looks at factors that affect people's health within
four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic
factors, and physical environment. Among the many health factors they
looked at: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, binge drinking, and
teenage pregnancy; the number of uninsured adults, availability of
primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high
school graduation, number of children in poverty, rates of violent
crime, access to healthy foods, air pollution levels, and liquor store
The University of Wisconsin's Remington says it's easier for people to
lead a healthy lifestyle when they live in a healthy community – such
as one that has expanded early childhood education, enacted smoke-free
laws, increased access to healthier foods, or created more
opportunities for physical activity. "We hope this report can mobilize
community leaders to learn what is making their residents unhealthy
and take action to invest in programs and policy changes that improve
health," he adds.