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County-By-County Report Sizes Up Americans' Health
Date:2/17/2010

Rural areas tend to fare worse than urban locales, comprehensive survey finds,,

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Want to know how healthy your county is?

Now you can find out.

A new ranking of nearly every county in the nation shows significant disparities in the overall health of residents, depending on where they live.

Researchers from University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used data on premature deaths, self-reports about health and factors such as smoking rates, obesity, teen births, the percentage of children in poverty and number of liquor stores vs. grocery stores to rank more than 3,000 counties nationwide against others in their state.

Researchers then chose each state's healthiest county and compared it to each state's unhealthiest county. Among the findings:

  • Suburban and urban counties tend to be healthier than rural counties. About 48 percent of the healthiest counties were urban or suburban, while 84 percent of the unhealthiest counties were rural.
  • The unhealthiest counties had 2.5 times the premature death rate, or people who die under age 75, than the healthiest counties.
  • Residents of the unhealthiest counties were more than twice as likely to consider themselves in fair or poor health than those in the healthiest counties.
  • Those in the least healthy counties were 60 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital for a preventable conditions. Misuse of hospitals for non-emergency or preventable conditions is often a symptom of not having access to outpatient care and primary care doctors, either because of lack of insurance or lack of providers.
  • Children are three times more likely to live in poverty in the least healthy counties (30 percent) compared to the healthiest counties (9 percent).
  • Counties ranked the unhealthiest are less likely to have at
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