Hospitals and health systems have looked forward to the release of the 2018 County Health Rankings because the data collected and shared in this annual report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute is helpful in the community health needs assessment (CHNA) process. The Health Rankings make it clear that good health includes many factors beyond medical care, such as education, jobs, smoking, access to healthy foods, and more.
Wisconsin county-specific information is available here: www.countyhealthrankings.org/explore-health-rankings/reports/state-reports/2018/wisconsin. You can compare counties based on key demographic, social and economic indicators here: www.countyhealthrankings.org/explore-health-rankings#county-select-38.
This year’s rankings show that health gaps persist not only by place, but also among racial and ethnic groups. These gaps are largely the result of differences in opportunities in the places we live.
The 2018 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report highlights social and economic factors that drive health. This year’s data shows:
- After nearly a decade of improvement, there are early signs that the percentage of babies born at low birthweight may be on the rise (a two percent increase from 2014). In all 50 states, there is a higher percentage of Black low birthweight babies than for other racial groups.
- Some places and groups of people have fewer social and economic opportunities, which also limits their ability to be healthy. More than 1 out of every 5 youth in the bottom performing counties do not graduate from high school in four years. For American Indian/Alaskan Native, Black, and Hispanic youth, it is 1 out of 4.
- Residential segregation provides a clear example of the link between race and place. For instance, in smaller metro and large urban counties, Black residents face greater barriers to health and opportunity. Black residents have higher rates of child poverty, low birthweight, and infant mortality, and lower high school graduation rates than White residents.
- Child poverty rates remain at levels higher than those of the pre-recession era despite declines in recent years. Patterns of recovery vary by both race and place. Child poverty rates have been slow to rebound in rural counties and in those with a greater share of people of color.
- Teen birth rates have been declining across community types and racial groups for more than a decade. Yet gaps by place and race persist. For example, teens in rural counties have seen the least improvement and continue to have the highest birth rates, nearly twice the rate of teens in suburban counties. American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, and Black teens have birth rates twice as high as White or Asian teens.
Hospitals, health systems and local health departments can use the rankings to support their work and invite new partners to the table—leaders in education, business, and community development—to take action and put healthy choices within everyone’s reach.
The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program offers data, tools, and resources in the Roadmaps to Health Action Center so hospitals, community partners, and local health officials can accelerate their health improvement efforts.