A compilation of county-level measures from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin has identified that premature death rates have been slowly declining across the nation. Over 60 percent of counties have seen some level of improvement in premature death in the six years that the organizations have been tracking the measures.
While this year’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps evaluated variables from poverty and violent crime to long commutes and air pollution, several behavioral health data points are included in the rankings.
For example, the report notes that the top performing county in the “excessive drinking” category measured a 3 percent prevalence of such behavior, compared with a 56 percent prevalence in the bottom performing county. The national average was 16 percent.
In poor mental health days over a one-month period, the minimum reported was 1 day, while the maximum reported was 10.1 days, with a national average of 3.5 days among all counties.
Rankings also examined the number of providers in relation to the local population. In the measures, mental health providers—including psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental healthcare—ranged from a high of one provider per 70 people in county measurement, to one provider per 52,617 people. The national average is one provider per 1,128 people.
When it comes to health, location matters. According to the study, five counties with the greatest overall improvements in premature death in the past six years include:
1. District of Columbia
2. Madison County, Mississippi
3. Pinal County, Arizona
4. Martin County, Florida
5. Albemarle County, Virginia
The rankings allow each state to see how its counties compare on 30 factors that impact health, including education, transportation, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet and exercise. The rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.