Washtenaw County ranks first among Michigan counties in “health factors” according to the 2013 County Health Rankings released Wednesday. This is the fourth consecutive year that Washtenaw County has received the top ranking for health factors, according to a press release from Washtenaw County Public Health.
The County Health Rankings are published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The rankings are based on the idea no single thing makes us healthy or unhealthy – rather it is a variety of factors such as physical activity, access to healthy food, education and family and community support combined. There are two rankings for each county, one for health factors and one for health outcomes. Health factors include our health behaviors, access to clinical care, social and environmental factors and our physical environments. Health outcomes include how long people live (mortality) and to what degree they report feeling healthy (morbidity).
Washtenaw ranks fifth among Michigan counties for health outcomes.
“These results are testament to some of the excellent work happening in our community – thanks to our community partners and our staff,” says Richard Fleece, health officer for Washtenaw County Public Health, in a statment.
Fleece added that there is still room for improvement.
“We know there are areas within our community where it’s much harder to live a healthy life. We can’t rely solely on our health care systems and providers to support our health – it takes all of us,” he said.
Washtenaw’s overall high rankings provide information about how Washtenaw County is doing compared to other counties and states. Within the county, there are significant health differences when looking at outcomes according to where people live, how much money they earn, their level of formal education or their race/ethnicity.
For example, Washtenaw County has a higher number of dentists relative to its population than other areas in Michigan. Yet, an estimated 40,000 Washtenaw residents have no dental insurance and an additional 35,000 residents with Medicaid are unable to access services because so few providers accept it.
Washtenaw’s own source of county health data called the Health Improvement Plan (HIP) helps shed some light on some of these county disparities in health. For example, how long you live may depend on where exactly you live within the county: The average age of death in Sylvan, York and Ypsilanti Townships starts at 64 years. In contrast, it is more than 76 years in Bridgewater Township, Saline and Ann Arbor.
Michigan's top four healthiest counties in order are Leelanau, Ottawa, Clinton and Livingston.
You can view the details of Washtenaw's health behaviors at countyhealthrankings.org.