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New health rankings of RI counties

July 23, 2010

Are you more likely to live a long life in Providence or Bristol County? Are residents of Washington County healthier than the people in Newport?  A new report by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin took a stab at the answers. The rankings are part of a larger collaboration, examining the health of counties in every state in the country.

The report ranks counties in two ways- first by what they call “health outcomes” which looks at the consequences of healthy  (or not healthy) choices in each county.

The health outcomes are determined using mortality rates, data on babies born too small, and information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System which measures poor physical and mental health.

The second ranking looks at “health factors” to examine the prevalence of healthy influences and behaviors.  The way this category is calculated is more complex and includes rates of tobacco and alcohol use, number of uninsured adults, high school graduation rates, and the number of air quality alert days.

And the rankings are…

Health Outcomes Health Factors

1. Washington                 1. Bristol

2. Newport                      2. Washington

3. Bristol                          3. Newport

4. Kent                              4. Kent

5. Providence                5.  Providence

Are you surprised? Now take a look at this set of rankings-

Median Household Income (US Census 2008)

1. Washington County  $71,056

2. Bristol County $67,704

3. Newport County $65,792

4. Kent County $63,309

5. Providence County $46,997

Notice any similarities?

When I used to make maps for the Providence Plan, we used to joke that all of our maps, be they about education, health, lead paint, or vacant lots, looked pretty much the same.

One end of the color spectrum always lit up the East Side.  The South Side, West End, Elmwood and Federal Hill were always the opposite color. They were maps of poverty.

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