Health Rankings of All the Counties in the US

A new website provides data on how healthy-or unhealthy-every county is.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute joined forces to create a website that ranks the health of people in every county in the United States. The rankings on the website, www.Countyhealthrankings.org, are based on the county's population, health outcomes (mortality, morbidity), and health factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, physical environment). Each area is further broken down; for example, the health behaviors that were measured include obesity, smoking, binge drinking, motor vehicle crash rate, chlamydia rate, and teen birth rate.

One of the interesting factors included in the physical environment category was liquor store density in the county. It was included because researchers have linked availability of alcohol with drinking and driving, motor vehicle accidents, and violence. It was noted that liquor stores sell larger quantities of alcohol available for immediate consumption than bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

The researchers did not consider the grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores that sell alcohol. The amount of alcohol sold in these businesses varies from selling none (in "dry" counties) to a large amount for some counties (eg, counties with resort and vacation communities). So I'm not sure that liquor store density is a reliable measure, or estimate, of alcohol consumption.

The website also includes resources for taking action. Some are directed to individuals while others are targeted to public health and healthcare providers, community leaders, government officials, and employers/businesses. A very helpful area of the website lists programs and policies that work; in other words, are evidenced-based and effective. One recommendation is the expansion of the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. It is yet another testament to the important role that nurses play in health care.