Residents living in healthier counties are 1.4 times more likely to have access to a doctor and dentist than those in the least healthy counties, according to a public health database that tracks every U.S. county.
While premature deaths are at the lowest level in 20 years, people in the unhealthiest counties are dying too early at more than twice the rates of those in the healthiest counties, according to the 2013 County Health Rankings, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The project reviewed 25 factors that influence health, including childhood poverty, smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity, and percentages of children living in single parent households. Interactive maps and new county-level trend graphs detail changes over time for several measures, including children in poverty, unemployment and quality of care.
Among the new, significant trends reported:
--Child poverty rates have not improved since 2000, with more than one in five children living in poverty;
--Violent crime has decreased by almost 50% over the past two decades;
--The counties where people don't live as long and don't feel as well mentally or physically have the highest rates of smoking, teen births, and physical inactivity, as well as more preventable hospital stays; and
--Teen birth rates are more than twice as high in the least healthy counties than in the healthiest counties.
Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MACP, the Foundation's president and CEO, said, "The County Health Rankings can be put to use right away by leaders in government, business, health care, and every citizen motivated to work together to create a culture of health in their community."