This is the ninth county health rankings report by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Each year the two organizations pool data from different sources to look at how where we live affects our health.
In Utah, Piute and Daggett counties did not have enough data to be ranked, but all other counties in the state were ranked according to measures of health and access to healthy lifestyles.
“When we look at the healthiest counties in Utah the top five are Morgan, Wasatch, Cache, Davis and Utah,” said Kate Konkle, an associate researcher at University of Wisconsin. “Clean air, clean water are really important to our health but they don’t tend to have the same level of impact as education or income, that influence the options that we have to be healthy and live vibrant lives.”
So based on the research, the healthiest residents in the state live in northern Utah. Where do some of the state’s unhealthiest residents live?
“The bottom five counties are Duchesne, Uintah, Emery, San Juan and Carbon,” Konkle said. “More people dying younger is basically what this looks at. In Morgan County the premature death rate was 3,200 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population. In Carbon County it’s 11,100, so more than three times the years of productive life in that county are lost.”
This year, the county health rankings included data about different racial and ethnic groups. The study found that differences in health are driven by race, place and ethnicity.
“Most of your health is really determined by the opportunities that you have," Konkle said. "Do people have access to living wage jobs? Do they have access to education that allows you to qualify and to get those jobs? Are they living in safe neighborhoods, where – if there is a park – it’s safe to go play in it? People based on where they live and sometimes the color of their skin don’t have the same opportunity to be healthy.”
Konkle and others working on the study hope the county health rankings will be used to help residents living in at-risk communities work to remove barriers to healthy living.