LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - How healthy are people where you live? Are you better off than neighbors in nearby towns and suburbs? On Wednesday, researchers published what's believed to be the first county-by-county report on America's health.
While Washington's looking at the big picture, how to fix health care for everyone, this new report from the Rober Wood Johnson Foundation gives every county in the nation a snapshot of what's happening where you live.
Is it easy to find a doctor where you live? Do your neighbors drink, smoke, eat more than people in the next town over? Is there more pollution, heart disease, cancer?
These new county health rankings answer those questions for each of the more than 3,000 counties in America.
"People can get engaged - right now, right away - in making their communities healthier," says Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Most reports compare states, but that doesn't tell the whole story: sometimes the healthiest places are right next door to the unhealthiest.
"We've got to make sure the things communities focus on are really important to them," says Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey.
The report found cities and suburbs tend to be healthier than rural areas. Comparing the 50 best and 50 worst, researchers found death rates are two and a half times higher, smoking and preventable stays are 60% higher, and only one in three neighborhoods in the least healthy counties has a fresh-food grocery store.
"We have some areas where there's 2,000 students to one school nurse," says Elizabeth Walker with the National Assn. of State Boards of Education.
Prince George's County Maryland learned many of its residents can't get any prenatal care.
Dr. Donald Shell with Prince George's County, MD Health Officer says, "we had to start a new high risk pregnancy clinic for women who are insured, and women who are underinsured and women who are uninsured."
Scientists hope the information will spur action one county at a time.
The study has some limitations. For instance, you can compare counties within state, but not between different states. And there's no information for the nation's capitol. Researchers say they'll fix both of those issues in next year's report.
To get a picture of health in your county, log onto www.countyhealthrankings.org.
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