County-by-county health comparisons encourage community action

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The annual rankings, which started in 2010, highlight the healthiest and least healthy counties in every state while also examining other factors that affect health outcomes such as education rates, income levels and access to healthy foods. The report looks at four broad categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment.

The latest report includes new data about the number of fast food restaurants in every county and the levels of physical inactivity among residents, along with graphs illustrating premature death trends over 10 years. 

National trends revealed by the report include:

• Excessive drinking rates are highest in the Northern states;

• Rates of teen births, sexually transmitted infections and children in poverty are highest across the Southern states;

• Unemployment rates are lowest in the Northeastern, Midwest, and central plains states; and 

• Motor vehicle crash deaths are lowest in the Northeastern and upper Midwest states.

The rankings are accompanied by grants to encourage communities to take action based on the data. These include grants to local coalitions and partnerships among policymakers, business, education, public health, healthcare and community organizations; grants to national organizations working to improve health; recognition of communities whose promising efforts have led to better health; and customized technical assistance on strategies to improve health.