Mar. 27—The rate of preventable hospital stays decreased about 20 percent from 2003 to 2011, according to data released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The fifth edition of the County Health Rankings released by the two organizations is designed to show how counties in each state compare on 29 factors that have an impact on health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, unemployment, physical inactivity, and access to healthy foods. 

The data also illustrate the large gaps that exist between the healthiest and least healthy counties. For example, the least healthy counties have twice the death rates and twice as many children living in poverty and teen births as the nation’s healthiest counties.

Other findings include the following:

  • Injuries are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and injury death rates are 1.7 times higher in the least healthy counties than in the healthiest counties. These rates are particularly high in the southwest, part of the northwest (including Alaska), and the east south central and Appalachian regions.
  • The availability of mental health providers in the healthiest counties in each state is 1.3 times higher than in the least healthy counties, with the west and northeast regions of the country having the best access to mental health providers.
  • Teen birth rates have decreased about 25 percent since 2007.
  • Smoking rates dropped from 21 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2012.

“The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Publication Date: Thursday, March 27, 2014