Thursday, March 17, 2016

How Healthy Is Your County? See Where It Ranks in the Updated County Health Rankings

Collin, Hartley, and Williamson counties are the three healthiest Texas counties while Jefferson, Potter, and Hudspeth are the least healthy, according to the latest study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study ranks overall health outcomes, like length of life and quality of life, and factors that affect health, like percent uninsured, smoking and obesity rates, education, the environment, and number of people per physician. An interactive version of the study’s results is published online.

A snapshot of trends in Texas counties:

  • Counties along the Texas-Mexico border, as well as several counties in West Texas and the Panhandle, report the highest uninsured rates. Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States, and these counties specifically bear the burden of this dismal statistic. According to the Texas Medical Association, “uninsured Texans are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of health care and are more likely to die from health-related problems. They are much less likely to receive needed medical care, even for symptoms that can have serious health consequences.”

  • Counties with large suburban populations (like those surrounding the cities of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin) scored high for overall health factors. This is likely because of easier access to physicians and health care providers, clinics, hospitals, exercise opportunities, and healthy food options.

  • Counties subjected to high counts of daily fine particulate matter in the air are concentrated in West Texas, the northern part of the Panhandle, and near the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. Fine particulate matter includes toxic organic compounds and heavy metal particulates that result from forest and brush fires, automobile exhaust, power plants, and smelting. According to the study, the consequences of this type of air pollution include “decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other adverse [lung] effects.”

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