Howard County Healthiest, Baltimore City Least Healthy, Garrett Near Middle
Feb. 18, 2010
Howard County has the healthiest residents in Maryland and Baltimore City has the least healthy in the state, according to a new report released Tuesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project is the first of its kind 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.
Garrett County’s residents fall near the middle of the list of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City, ranking 14th in health outcomes and 13th in health factors.
Maryland’s 10 healthiest counties, starting with most healthy, are Howard, Montgomery, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, Carroll, Talbot, Calvert, St. Mary’s, Harford, and Worcester. The 10 counties/city in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Baltimore City, Somerset, Dorchester, Allegany, Caroline, Wicomico, Cecil, Prince George’s, Kent, and Baltimore.
The healthiest of Maryland’s 24 counties are clustered in the north-central region of the state; the least healthy are sprinkled primarily in the southeast and northwest regions of the state.
“This report shows us that there are big differences in overall health across Maryland’s counties, because of 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,” said Patrick Remington, M.D., 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 his or her county to the health of other counties in Maryland, and also see where the state needs to improve.”
The online report, available at www.countyhealth-rankings.org, includes a snapshot of each county in Maryland, 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 Maryland by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the number of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birthweight 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 were: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, binge drinking, teenage pregnancy, number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, preventable hospital stays, rates of high school graduation, number of children in poverty, homicide rates, access to healthy foods, air pollution levels, and liquor store density.
Garrett County’s best ranking – 6th – was in physical environment. The county ranked 8th in health behaviors, 14th in social and economic factors, and 19th in clinical care.