LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Ark. Dept. of Health) - Benton County has the healthiest residents in Arkansas and Ouachita is the least healthy county in the state, according to the fourth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. Nationally, the data revealed that unhealthy counties have more than twice the rate of premature deaths than healthy ones and childhood poverty rates are twice as high in unhealthy counties. The Rankings allow counties to see how they compare to other counties within the state based on a range of factors that influence health including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, and family and social support. This year's Rankings include new measures, such as how many dentists are in a community per resident.
According to the 2013 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Arkansas, starting with most healthy, are Benton, followed by Washington, Faulkner, Saline and Boone counties. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Ouachita, Phillips, Mississippi, Poinsett and Lafayette counties.
The rankings include a snapshot of each county in Arkansas with a color-coded map comparing each county's overall health ranking. There are also new county-level trend graphs detailing change over time for several of the measures, including children in poverty, unemployment, and quality of care.
Paul K. Halverson, DrPH, State Health Officer and Director, Arkansas Department of Health, said "Since their introduction in 2009, the County Health Rankings have provided Arkansas counties with some powerful tools to help guide local efforts as they improve our overall health and well-being. Initiatives to reduce tobacco use, enhance injury-prevention efforts and fight obesity and chronic disease have been shaped by what these findings can tell policy makers at the county level. We know that it can mean more to measure our statistical information with that of our own neighbors, instead of comparing ourselves to other states or national indicators. That really helps us see what is working well in our own home state, where we face our own set of healthcare challenges. The County Health Rankings provide a clear picture of our strengths as well as our opportunities for improvement.
"Over the last four years, when local policy makers have gotten together with tools like these, real discussions about how we can change for the better have been happening around the state," Halverson said.
"For over 100 years, the Arkansas Department of Health has committed to improving the health of all Arkansans. One shining example of this commitment is the Hometown Health Improvement (HHI) Initiatives that currently exist in every county of this state. HHI coalitions do powerful and unique work to improve the health and quality of life in communities, thereby reducing preventable illness and injury, helping us to coordinate community health services more effectively, and enabling us to use available health care resources more efficiently. HHI Community Coalitions will be hosting local presentations of the 2013 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. That access to county level data is a key component to support the ongoing work in providing better community health," Halverson said.
"One example is the Faulkner County Concerned Citizens Advisory Group, established as an HHI Community Coalition in 2009, which has received grant funding from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps organization to support local community presentations to increase awareness of the freely available county level data and to encourage other community groups to access these resources."
The Rankings are one part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program. Communities are taking information from the County Health Rankings and using the County Health Roadmaps to build connections with local and national partners to improve health. Today marks the release of the call for applications for the 2014 RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize, which honors outstanding community partnerships that are helping people live healthier lives.
To learn more about this year's winning communities or get information about becoming one, visit www.rwjf.org/goto/prize and www.countyhealthrankings.org.
(Source: Arkansas Department of Health)