A new study by the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation places Prowers County close to the bottom of healthy counties in Colorado, and ranks Huerfano County last. Douglas County is ranked number 1. Residents of Prowers County, the report claims, are more than two times more likely to die a premature death than people in Douglas County, which was listed as the healthiest.
Jacqueline Brown RN, Director of Public Health and Environment for Prowers County said she welcomed the data. “The County Health Rankings serve as a tool to help us in Prowers County to identify areas where we are doing well and areas where work is needed to improve health. We’ve known for some time that our county faces challenges.” In the 2011 County Health Rankings Prowers County ranked low on overall health—51 out of 65—compared with other counties in the state.
The 10 healthiest counties in Colorado in order are Douglas, Eagle, Pitkin, Boulder, Summit, Elbert, Broomfield, Larimer, Routt and Gunnison. The 10 counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Huerfano, Crowley, Fremont, Montezuma, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers, Bent, Pueblo and Alamosa. The healthiest of the 56 counties ranked in the report are clustered in the central part of the state and the least healthy counties are primarily in Southeastern Colorado.
Brown reports that researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” to rank Colorado counties: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health and the rate of low-birth-weight infants.
The rankings also looked at factors that affect people’s health in four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Among the many health factors they looked at: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults and teenage births. Also used was the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers and preventable hospital stays.
More factors included the rates of high school graduation, adults who have attended college, children in poverty, community safety, access to healthy foods and air pollution levels. For example, it said that 28 percent of children in Prowers County live in poverty, compared with 3 percent in Douglas.
Prowers County had worse numbers than the state as a whole for premature deaths. It also had more poor physical and mental health days. Preventable hospital days were double the state rate. In spite of efforts to curb smoking, more adults smoked and more were obese in Prowers County. The air is cleaner in Prowers County but there is a higher number of uninsured adults and a higher rate of diabetes.
Prowers County had a lower rate of binge drinking but there were more deaths in auto accidents. This is important because there is a strong association demonstrated between excessive drinking and alcohol-impaired driving, with approximately 17,000 Americans killed annually in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.
In Prowers County the rate of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, is 3 times the rate in Douglas County and the teen birth rate 7 times higher.
Brown stated “The Rankings helps us identify factors that are making it difficult for residents to maintain a healthy lifestyle and understand how we compare to other counties in the state. With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve the health of our residents. It also provides us with the opportunity to make our residents, elected officials and other community leaders aware of efforts to implement programs or other ways to improve health in the community.”
Brown believes everyone in our community has a stake in being healthy. Working together, we can make Prowers County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play.
For more information go to www.countyhealthrankings.org or contact Prowers County Public Health and Environment at 719-336-8721. The link will also be available on the Prowers County Web site, www.prowerscounty.net.
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