Trimble rates high in statewide health rankings

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Trimble County ranks in the top third of the counties with the healthiest residents in Kentucky, according to the annual County Health Rankings, released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The County Health Rankings show that where people live matters to their health. The health of a community depends on many different factors – ranging from individual health behaviors, education and jobs, to quality of health care, to the environment. This collection of reports helps community leaders see that where people live, learn, work, and play influences how healthy they are and how long they live. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to develop these Rankings for each state’s counties.

Trimble, at No. 39, outranked neighboring counties Carroll (No. 65) and Henry County (No. 43) while being outdistanced by Oldham County at No. 2. Among other counties in the region Jefferson County (Louisville Metro) ranked at No. 33, Owen County at No. 8, Shelby County at No. 12 and Gallatin County at No. 75.

“This report provides a broader understanding of the health issues affecting our state,” said Kentucky Public Health Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. “We have known for some time that Kentucky has many issues that affect the health of our state as a whole. However, it is equally important to understand issues that affect different parts of the state in different ways.”

This is the second year of the County Health Rankings, which assesses the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.

The 10 healthiest counties in Kentucky, starting with the most healthy, are: Boone, Oldham, Calloway, Woodford, Scott, Lyon, Washington, Owen, Franklin and Fayette.

The 10 counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are: Owsley, Martin, Wolfe, Fulton, Magoffin, Perry, Pike, Harlan, Letcher and Knott. The healthiest of Kentucky’s 120 counties are clustered in the central and western part of the state and the least healthy counties are primarily in the eastern part of Kentucky.

“The Rankings help counties to see what is affecting the health of their residents so they can see where they are doing well, where they need to improve, and what steps they need to take as a community to remove barriers to good health,” says Patrick Remington, M.D., associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The Rankings includes a snapshot of each county in Kentucky with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. The report is available online in its entirety. Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Kentucky by county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage 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.

“These county specific data assist us in better targeting resources for our many critical public health needs,” said Linda Sims, director of the Kentucky Health Department Association. Sims also noted that rankings will help provide a foundation to evaluate effectiveness, accessibility and quality of personal and population-based services.

The Rankings also 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, excessive drinking among adults, and teenage births; the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation, and adults who have attended college; children in poverty; and community safety; access to healthy foods and air pollution levels.

“The County Health Rankings help everyone see that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office and where we live matters to our health,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The good news is that there are things counties can do right away to help their residents lead healthier lives. We hope this second annual release of County Health Rankings data will spur all sectors – government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health – to work together to find solutions and take action and implement programs and policy changes to improve health.”   

Lavizzo-Mourey also said that the Foundation is launching a new program in conjunction with the Rankings to support communities that are working collaboratively to improve the health of their residents. This new initiative expands the scope of the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health, or MATCH project, helping communities translate the Rankings into action. “We want to help communities collaborate on strategies that work to improve health,” she said.

For more information, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.