The rate of preventable hospital stays dropped almost 20% from 2003 to 2011, even as large gaps remain between the healthiest and unhealthiest counties in the country, reports the fifth annual County Health Rankings, published today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The report defined a preventable hospital stay as one involving a condition that could have been addressed in an outpatient setting. It arrived at its findings in this area by looking at the experiences of Medicare
enrollees and using that as a guidepost for the entire population, the report noted.
The best performing counties had 46 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 enrollees compared to a national average of 65 per 1,000. In addition, “preventable hospital stays in the unhealthiest counties are 1.4 times more common than those in the healthiest counties,” the report stated.
Looking at the country's health county by county, the report noted that, “While Americans are generally living longer and healthier lives, large gaps exist between the least healthy and healthiest places,” the report said.
“The least healthy counties have twice the premature death rates (years of life lost before age 75), twice as many children living in poverty, and twice as many teen births compared to the healthiest counties,” the report found.
The healthiest counties had better access to healthy food, parks, gyms and exercise facilities, the report noted. They also had more access to primary care
doctors, dentists and mental health
“The least healthy counties have more households that are overcrowded, homes that lack adequate facilities to cook, clean or bathe, and too many people paying more for housing than they can afford given their income,” the report said.
Among other health-related research, the report also found that the smoking rate among adults dropped from 21% in 2005 to 18% in 2012, that physical inactivity rates are decreasing and that the number of babies born to teens decreased by almost 25% since 2007 and by more than half since 1991 “due to greater access to and more effective use of contraception and delays in initiating sexual activity,” the report stated.
“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings—where we live, learn, work and play,” said Bridget Catlin, director of the County Health Rankings. “The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents, and others to work together for better health.”
Looking at health insurance, the report found an increase in the rate of uninsured adults during the past decade from 15% to 18%, but also found slight decreases in that rate in 2011 and 2012.Follow John N. Frank on Twitter: @MHJFrank