“While Americans are generally living longer and healthier lives, large gaps exist between the least healthy and healthiest places,” the report stated. “The least healthy counties have twice the premature death rates, twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births compared to the healthiest counties.”
The report defined a preventable hospital stay as one involving a condition that could have been addressed in an outpatient setting. Its findings came from looking at the experiences of Medicare enrollees and using those as a guidepost for the entire population.
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 providers. “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 continued.
The 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 report also found that adult smoking rates dropped from 21% in 2005 to 18% in 2012 and that overall physical inactivity rates are decreasing.
Also, 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.