What's billed as the most comprehensive report of its kind ranks the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The second annual "County Health Rankings" report from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is intended to give communities a roadmap to improve health.
The report looks at health outcomes: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health; the number of days people report being in poor physical or mental health; and, the rate of low-birthweight babies.
The rankings also look at 4 categories of factors that impact health: health behavior (including smoking, drinking, teen birth rates), clinical care (including uninsured adults, primary care providers and diabetic screening) , social and economic factors (including unemployment, children in poverty, crime rate) and physical environment (air pollution and access to recreational facilities).
In Pennsylvania, Union County has the healthiest residents and Philadelphia is the least healthy county in the state. Allegheny County is 42nd among the 67 counties, an improvement from the 2010 report when it ranked 48th.
Bridget Booske is a senior scientist with the institute and deputy director of the County Health Rankings project...."When I look at Allegheny County, there's a high percentage of low-birthweight babies (8.6% compared to the national benchmark of 6%) than elsewhere. Other factors, like smoking and obesity, Allegheny is pretty much running about average, but average in Pennsylvania doesn't necessarily mean there's not a whole lot of improvement that can take place there."
Booske says that set a national benchmark of a 90th percentile where only 10% of the counties had healthier numbers in those categories because they believe improvement to reach that top 10% "is attainable."
Allegheny County exceeds the national benchmark in the category of health coverage with 11% of uninsured adults compared to the national figure of 13%.
Booske says it's not unusual to have neighboring counties with wide-ranging rankings. While Allegheny County is number 42, Fayette is 63rd, Greene-65th and Cambria is 64th; while Butler is number 11, Indiana is 17 and Westmoreland is 20th...
"Where we live, learn, work and play does really matter across the state."
Booske adds that improvements can be made through policy, through community programs and in individual homes..."Health is everyone's business. There is something we each can do. It's good for all of us to live in healthier economies. It's good for the economy to be healthy."