Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin, said the rankings are a call to action for state and local social service providers, environmental health experts, health care professionals, educators, elected officials and other community leaders to identify where their region is falling short and how they can improve.
"Whenever you rank people or places or teams or colleges, people pay attention. They want to know where they are on the list and they want to know what factors were included in the ranking," Remington said. "Everyone in the nation can look at this report and see how the health of where they live or work compares to their neighboring counties and to other counties in the state."
In the study, researchers ranked counties on two overall measures: health outcomes, which included information on mortality, self-reported health and low birth weight babies; and about 25 other factors that can impact health but don't directly measure it. Those factors included rates of motor vehicle accidents, uninsured adults and violent crime; the number of primary care doctors in an area and usage of hospice for the terminally ill; measures of air pollution, liquor store density and the percentage of high school and college graduates.
Because each state collects data differently, the study ranks states only against others in the same state, Remington explained. That also means that one state's "unhealthy" could be another state's "healthy" and vice versa.
For example, it's possible that a relatively unhealthy county in a state such as Vermont, which was ranked the healthiest in the nation by a recent report, "America's Health Rankings," cou
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