A new report released today examines the health and well-being of people living in nearly every county in the United States, and finds that rates of premature deaths are at the lowest level in 20 years. Nevertheless, people in the unhealthiest counties are dying too early at more than twice the rates of those in the healthiest counties.
For the second year in a row, Oldham County was ranked the healthiest of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Metro Louisville (Jefferson County), on the other hand, ranked a disappointing 30th on the list.
The 2013 County Health Rankings rely on a robust set of data and analysis that allows counties to see what it is that is making residents sick or healthy, and how they compare to other counties in the same state. This is the fourth year of the Rankings, published online at www.countyhealthrankings.org  by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings data helps to lay the groundwork for health improvement efforts of governors, mayors, business leaders, and citizens across the country.
The County Health Rankings show that how long and how well people live depends on multiple factors beyond just their access to medical care. It examines 25 factors that influence health, including rates of childhood poverty, rates of smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity, and percentages of children living in single parent households.
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Stephanie Mayfield Gibson, is quoted in the current issue of The Lane Report  as saying, “This report demonstrates public health successes and highlights opportunities for improvement in counties across the state. It helps us understand the factors leading to health in different parts of the state and how those factors result in various patterns. This information can be used to frame further community discussions as we move forward in building a healthier Kentucky.”
Photo & graphics courtesy Robert Wood Johnson Foundation