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New County Health Rankings Show Differences in Health by Place and by Race

2018 Wisconsin Health Outcomes Map: less color intensity indicates better performance in the respective summary rankings.

The annual County Health Rankings measure vital health factors, including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, the quality of air and water, income inequality, and teen births in nearly every county in America. The annual Rankings provide a revealing snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play, providing a starting point for change in communities.

PHI Director Sheri Johnson, PHI County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHRR) Program Director, Julie Willems Van Dijk, and PHS professor, Patrick Remington, participated in promotion of this year’s County Health Rankings release for Wisconsin on local and national media. There were 85 media contacts, a sample here:

Lindsay Garber, CHRR Communications Associate, provided this summary:
"For nearly a decade, County Health Rankings have shown that where we live makes a difference to how well and how long we live. This year, researchers with the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), have provided new analyses that show meaningful health gaps persist not only by place, but also by race and ethnicity.

The Rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states. The local-level data make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education, and jobs. The Rankings further show that not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy where they live and that lack of opportunity to quality education, living wage jobs and affordable housing, for example, disproportionately affects people of color across the nation and within Wisconsin.

The new Rankings State Reports also call attention to key drivers of health such as children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health. Children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced and quality schools, and have fewer chances to be prepared for living wage jobs. The Wisconsin State Report reveals that in Wisconsin, 16 percent of children live in poverty, compared to the U.S. rate of 20 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups in Wisconsin, rates of children in poverty range from 11 percent to 44 percent with American Indian/Alaskan Native children faring the worst and White children faring the best.

“The time is now to address long-standing challenges like child poverty,” said Sheri Johnson, PhD, director, University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. “This year’s Rankings are a call to action to see how these persistent health gaps play out locally, take an honest look at their root causes, and work together to give everyone a fair shot at a healthier life.”

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Wisconsin, starting with most healthy, are Ozaukee County, followed by Taylor County, Pepin County, Washington County, and Waukesha County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Menominee County, Milwaukee County, Sawyer County, Adams County, and Langlade County".

Sheri Johnson, Population Health Institute Director, and Don Schwarz, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program Senior Vice President, on set

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Population Health Institute County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program Director, and Dwayne Proctor, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Advisor to the President, on set

Learn more about County Health Rankings & Roadmaps at