Mecklenburg County is in the top tier of counties with the highest health outcomes and health factors in North Carolina, according to a new report released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The County Health Rankings are the first to rank the overall health of the counties in all 50 states – more than 3,000 total – by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. North Carolina’s healthiest counties include Mecklenburg, Wake, Cabarrus, Union and Catawba. Counties in our area with the poorest health include Anson, Richmond and Montgomery. The healthiest of North Carolina’s counties are clustered in the piedmont and mountains; the least healthy counties are sprinkled primarily in the southern Piedmont and eastern regions of the state. “This report shows us that there are big differences in overall health across North Carolina’s counties, due to many factors, ranging from individual behavior to quality of health care, to education and jobs, to access to healthy foods, and to quality of the air,” says Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, associate dean for Public Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “For the first time, every person can compare the overall health of their county to the health of other counties in North Carolina, and also see where the state needs to improve.” Mecklenburg County ranks 5th in mortality (length of life) and 9th in morbidity (quality of life) and in the top 21 in health behaviors, clinical care, and social and economic factors. Ongoing issues with air quality in the County directly affected the physical environment score, bringing down Mecklenburg’s total ranking. “We are pleased that the overall health status puts us in the top twenty-five counties in the state,” says Mecklenburg County Health Director Wynn Mabry. “There are, however, many areas where we are working to bring things to a higher level.” The online report, available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, includes a snapshot of each county in North Carolina with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for North Carolina by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent 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 report then looks at factors that affect people’s health within 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, binge drinking, and teenage pregnancy; the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation, number of children in poverty, rates of violent crime, access to healthy foods, air pollution levels, and liquor store density. The University of Wisconsin’s Remington says it’s easier for people to lead a healthy lifestyle when they live in a healthy community – such as one that has expanded early childhood education, enacted smoke-free laws, increased access to healthier foods, or created more opportunities for physical activity. “We hope this report can mobilize community leaders to learn what is making their residents unhealthy and take action to invest in programs and policy changes that improve health,” he adds. For more information, please visit www.countyhealthrankings.org or www.meckhealth.org.