PROVIDENCE - A new report released yesterday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute helps paint a picture of health successes and challenges throughout Rhode Island. The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states, and allow counties to see how they compare to other counties within the state based on a range of factors that influence health.
"Given Rhode Island's small size, we tend not to see major differences from county to county," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH). "Still, this report gives us a glimpse at how Rhode Islanders are faring at the community level, a matter of particular interest as we think about designing a healthcare system that addresses the unique needs of individual communities throughout the state."
The report looked at factors such as high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, and family and social support. For example, according to the report, in Rhode Island, 21% of those living in Bristol County and Washington County are obese, as are 22% of Newport County residents, and 27% of those living in Kent and Providence counties. The report also found that 42% of all restaurants in Rhode Island are fast food restaurants, with the highest concentration located in Providence County.
"Access to affordable healthy food and safe places to exercise has a measurable impact on the health of a community's residents, as does access to affordable primary care," Dr. Fine said.
Several Rhode Island municipalities have been working to improve the health of their residents. In Kent County, municipalities are focused on boosting the use of city and town parks and work with local Chambers of Commerce to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity. Providence formed the Mayor's Office of Healthy Communities and is working to increase play in the city's parks and recreation facilities, reduce substance abuse, and stop tobacco smoking.
The Rankings are only one part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program. Communities take information from the County Health Rankings, and then use the County Health Roadmaps to build connections with local and national partners to improve health.
# # #