New county health rankings show region has significant room for improvement


We know that much of what influences health happens in our schools, neighborhoods and places of work, in addition to the doctor’s office or hospital. A new report released today shows how each county across the United States fares in terms of thirty factors known to influence health. Ranking the health of every county in Washington, the report is useful in helping us in the Puget Sound region to identify actions, beyond health care, that impact health. The report, the County Health Rankings, shows that there are only a few areas in which the Puget Sound region is at or above the national benchmark (the 90th percentile), while there are many more areas where counties are at least 20 percent worse than the benchmark.

“The 2013 County Health Rankings highlights the variation of health within the region and calls out many opportunities for the region to improve its performance,” said Mary McWilliams, the Alliance’s Executive Director. ‘The County Health Rankings results complement and add to the Alliance’s Community Checkup report, which measures the quality of health care in the region and sets the same high expectations for performance.”

For example, the County Health Rankings finds that the rate of screening for patients with diabetes is similar for the Medicare population as what we see in our Community Checkup data that focuses on the commercially insured (under age 65) population. In contrast, the rate of mammography screening appears to be higher for the under age 65 population (Community Checkup) than it is in the Medicare age population (County Rankings), so this may identify an important opportunity for our communities.

The County Health Rankings is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. This year’s report is the fourth time the rankings have been issued. The County Health Rankings show the rank of the health of nearly every county in the nation and illustrate that much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office. The Rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health such as the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, unemployment, limited access to healthy foods, air and water quality, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

Among the areas where most or all of the Puget Sound counties excel are physical activity, preventable hospitalizations and motor vehicle crash rates. Areas with significant room for improvement include:

  • Self-reported poor or fair health, and self-reported poor physical and mental health days
  • Adult smoking (except King County)
  • Excessive drinking
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Teen birth rate
  • Uninsured rates
  • Access to primary care physicians
  • Unemployment
  • Inadequate social and emotional support
  • Air quality
  • Access to recreational facilities
  • Limited access to healthy foods

To help consumers manage their health and health care more effectively, the Alliance has a consumer engagement campaign. Called Own Your Health, the campaign provides helpful information and resources from reliable sources for consumers to help them address health issues important to them.

Full results from the County Health Rankings are available at

Media Contact

John Gallagher, 206-454-2957,

Issued March 20, 2013.

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