Health Rankings for U.S. Counties Released

Health rankings for nearly every county in the country were released Wednesday.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute have done this study for the past six years.

They look at 30 different categories including poverty, education, transportation, housing, violent crime, jobs and access to medical care.

All of these factors have an impact on how long and how well people live.

The goal of the study is to help community leaders to identify problem areas so they can take action to improve residents' overall health.

The rankings just let the citizens know the overall health of their counties in comparison to their neighboring counties, or to the state.

The Washington County Health Department also does their own community health assessment every few years.

"As far as health outcomes and health factors, what we see is encouraging trends. One area that our health department is looking at is chronic disease, risk factors of chronic disease and root causes of chronic disease," explained Court Witschey, Administrator at the Washington County Health Department.

Witschey said his department has a "Creating Healthy Communities" grant and a brand new "Chronic Disease Prevention" grant.

He explained that the health rankings have helped them target certain areas in need of improvement within the community.

Currently, their focus includes tobacco use, physical activity and nutrition.

One positive national trend this year is a decline in premature death rates.

A growing problem area across much of the U.S. over the past several years is children living in poverty.

The rankings are available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org