2016 County Health Rankings

The 2016 County Health Rankings released in March compare health differences on a broad range of measures among almost every county throughout the country. The report shows dramatic differences between rural and urban counties on a number of measures, most notably premature deaths rates. Rural counties not only have higher rates of premature death, but also nearly 1 in 5 rural counties saw rises in premature death rates over the past decade while most large urban counties experienced consistent improvement.

Rural counties have higher rates of smoking, obesity, child poverty, and teen births, and higher numbers of uninsured adults than their urban counterparts. Large urban counties have lower smoking and obesity rates, fewer injury deaths, and more residents who attended some college.

The County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), compare counties within each state on more than 30 factors that impact health, including such social determinants as education, jobs, housing, exercise, commuting times, and more. Over the past seven years the Rankings, available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, have become an important tool for local communities working to build a Culture of Health.

“The County Health Rankings show how important it is to examine all the conditions that impact wellbeing and can help families thrive,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Communities around the nation are using the County Health Rankings to drive improvements in education, housing, job training, healthy food options, and more, as they work to build a Culture of Health.” 

The 2016 Rankings Key Findings Report includes several new health-related measures: residential segregation, drug overdose deaths, and insufficient sleep. 

  • Residential segregation between African-Americans and whites, a fundamental cause of health disparities, is highest in counties in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions and lowest along the Southeastern seaboard. In areas where African-American and white residential segregation is highest there are typically vast differences in health, well-being, opportunity, and quality of life. 
  • Drug overdose deaths have increased 79 percent nationwide since 2002 and are reaching epidemic proportions in parts of the U.S. The highest death rates are in counties in northern Appalachia and parts of the West and Southwest. 
  • 1 out of 3 adults don’t get enough sleep—less than 7 hours a night—with implications for health and productivity. Lack of sleep is tied to higher levels of stress and depression, hypertension, heart and kidney disease, motor vehicle accidents, and suicide. The highest rates of insufficient sleep are found in counties in the Southeastern U.S., while the lowest rates are in the Plains states.

This year’s Rankings data also takes a closer look at health gaps in each state, comparing how the top performing counties stack up against the bottom performing counties on key measures. Enormous difference in health outcomes can exist within a state.

“The Rankings data are only as valuable as the action it inspires and the lives it improves,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, co-director of the County Health Rankings. “Whether it’s addressing health gaps between counties or the concentration of poverty in rural and residentially segregated communities of color—targeting resources to the people and places in greatest need is essential to building a Culture of Health. The Rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to expand opportunity for all to be healthy.”

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps tools, which includes a database of evidence-informed approaches, personalized coaching, and a range of other resources, can assist communities in their efforts to improve health. Visit countyhealthrankings.org to learn more.

Date: 
Tuesday, April 12, 2016