Health & Fitness : National study ranks Dukes County second healthiest in Massachusetts
Dukes County is the second healthiest among 14 Massachusetts counties, according to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The top four healthiest counties in order of rank are Nantucket, Dukes, Middlesex, and Norfolk. Suffolk and Hampden are the least healthy.
The 2010 County Health Rankings is a collection of 50 reports about the overall health of counties in every state. The purpose of the study, according to its introduction, is to provide a means of comparison for counties in order to guide communities and the state to improve residents' health through programs and policies.
Researchers say they hope the study will "serve as both a call to action and a needed tool in this effort."
Counties were ranked according to their summary measures of health outcomes and health factors.
Health outcomes rankings are based on mortality, defined by the rate of premature death (before age 75), and morbidity, which includes measures such as low birth weight weights.
Health factors include behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, access to and quality of clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.
"The County Health Rankings show us that where we live matters to our health," according to the report. "The health of a community depends on many different factors - ranging from individual health behaviors, education and jobs, to quality of health care, to the environment. This first-of-its-kind collection of 50 reports - one per state - helps community leaders see that where we live, learn, work, and play influences how healthy we are and how long we live. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to develop these Rankings for each state's counties. This model has been used to rank the health of counties in Wisconsin for the past six years."
Good health is not all about you and your genetic composition. "The health of a community depends on many different factors, including quality of health care, individual behavior, education and jobs, and the environment. We can improve a community's health through programs and policies. For example, people who live in communities with ample park and recreation space are more likely to exercise, which reduces heart disease risk. People who live in communities with smoke-free laws are less likely to smoke or to be exposed to second-hand smoke, which reduces lung cancer risk.
"The problem is that there are big differences in health across communities, with some places being much healthier than others. And up to now, it has been hard to get a standard way to measure how healthy a county is and see where they can improve."
In 2010 County Health Rankings, "For the first time, counties can get a snapshot of how healthy their residents are by comparing their overall health and the factors that influence their health, with other counties in their state. This will allow them to see county-to-county where they are doing well and where they need to improve. Everyone has a stake in community health. We all need to work together to find solutions."
The rankings are based on a "model of population health improvement: In this model, health outcomes are measures that describe the current health status of a county. These health outcomes are influenced by a set of health factors. These health factors and their outcomes may also be affected by community-based programs and policies designed to alter their distribution in the community. Counties can improve health outcomes by addressing all health factors with effective, evidence-based programs and policies."
The rankings are built upon earlier research in Wisconsin, done in cooperation with staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dartmouth College, according to the report. "This report ranks Massachusetts counties according to their summary measures of health outcomes and health factors, as well as the components used to create each summary measure. The figure below depicts the structure of the Rankings model. Counties receive a rank for each population health component; those having high ranks (e.g., 1 or 2) are estimated to be the 'healthiest'
"Our summary health outcomes rankings are based on an equal weighting of mortality and morbidity measures. The summary health factors rankings are based on weighted scores of four types of factors: behavioral, clinical, social and economic, and environmental. The weights for the factors … are based upon a review of the literature and expert input, but represent just one way of combining these factors."
The entire report is available at countyhealthrankings.org.