The County Health Rankings, or the Rankings, compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, Population Health Institute “measure the health of nearly all counties in the nation and ranks them within states.”
The rankings are based on health outcomes, health factors and may be used to identify the policies and programs that are effective in improving health. The measures are standardized and are ranked based on scientific measures. The data may then be used to compare health and outcomes factors across the nation.
Health outcomes are measures of how healthy a county is. Outcomes are measured in two ways. First is how long a person lives or mortality. It also determines premature death rates by calculating the number of deaths that occur before the age of 75 in comparison with those deaths that occur in people who are 76 and older. The second outcome measures how healthy a person feels over a lifetime. This measure is the morbidity of a population.
Health factors measure the influences that affect health including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment factors. These are the factors that may be changed to impact overall health and are influenced by healthy choices Genetic and biological factors are not included in this study since they are beyond an individual’s ability to control.
The social and economic factors used in the rankings include measurements of education, community safety, employment, income, family and social support. No one factor is more important than another and should be ranked as equal importance. The factors tend to overlap and impact each other in various ways.
A person’s level of education directly affects his or her ability to make lifestyle choices. It affects behavior choices such as tobacco use and the ability to qualify for as well as securing “better” jobs. Better jobs usually pay higher wages and offer benefits such as health insurance.
The ability to achieve higher income earnings provides more choices in housing, especially in neighborhood selection. Having a greater selection of housing locations increases the possibility of living in a safer community. A safer community also impacts other health factors and outcomes such as birth weight, diet and exercise along with a larger sense of strong family and community support.
Not surprisingly, the 10 wealthiest counties in the United States also rank highest in education levels and income. The median average incomes range from $110,643 to $93,999. The education level correlates directly with these income levels. The percentage of adults over the age of 25 who have completed a bachelor degree ranges from 58 percent up to 71 percent.
When comparing health factors in Franklin County with the 120 other Kentucky counties, Franklin County ranks 17 from the top. The median average income for our residents is approximately $46,000, which is above the average in Kentucky, but below the national average of $50,000.
The educational levels in Kentucky are also below the national average. In Franklin County, 71 percent of the population has a high school diploma and more than 50 percent report that they have completed some college.
For more information on the 2012 County Health Rankings go to www.countyhealthrankings.org.