New online tool reveals PCP access is critical to good health


A new online tool will make it possible for physicians to gain detailed information about community health trends.

A new online tool will make it possible for physicians to gain detailed information about community health trends.

The 2013 County Health Rankings, published online by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, uses a complex set of data and analysis to reveal what is making the public sick or healthy, and how health trends compare across counties.

The ranking affirms what many primary care physicians (PCPs) have long suspected-that people are healthiest in the counties with the most PCPs. In fact, residents living in healthier counties are 1.4 times more likely to have a doctor or dentist than those in the last healthy counties, according to the analysis. The report on this year’s data also shows that mortality rates and reports of poor health are higher in counties with the highest rates of smoking, teen pregnancy, physical inactivity, and preventable hospital stays. Overall, people in the unhealthiest counties are dying too early and at more than twice the rates of those in the healthiest counties, the report adds.

The online data tool allows analysis across counties based on demographics and 25 factors including employment, social support, drinking water quality, access to fast-food restaurants, violent crime rates, and obesity.

The rankings were compiled from publically available data for each county and feature interactive maps, a downloadable spreadsheet with national data filtered by county. Data is available back to 2010, although the tool only recently became available online.

“We all have a stake in creating a healthier community and no single sector alone can tackle the health challenges in any given community,” says Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Collaboration is critical. The rankings are sparking action all over the country as people from all sectors join forces to create new possibilities in health-county by county.”


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