May 16, 2016

Park County a relatively healthy place, rankings say

When compared to the rest of Wyoming and the country, data suggests Park County residents are generally living longer and healthier lives.

The 2016 County Health Rankings — released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute — are aimed at pointing out areas where counties could be doing better.

Overall, the rankings say the length and quality of life in Park County is sixth best among Wyoming’s 23 counties — down a spot from the 2015 rankings.

The 2016 County Health Rankings rank Park County 6th among the state's 23 counties for health outcomes. Graphic courtesy countyhealthrankings.org
Meanwhile, Park County’s “health factors,” a mix of nearly 30 measures of behavior, healthcare, the environment and social and economic well-being, ranked ninth in the state. That was down from a fourth-place ranking in 2015.


The annual County Health Rankings rely on a large pool of information from many different government agencies. The rankings draw upon the most recent data available, but many of those figures date back several years.

For example, to measure how long people in Park County are living, the 2016 County Health Rankings use mortality data collected by the National Vital Statistics System from 2011 to 2013.

That data was used to calculate “years of potential life lost” — a figure meant to show many people are dying in Park County “prematurely,” or before the age of 75.

“Measuring premature mortality, rather than overall mortality, reflects the County Health Rankings’ intent to focus attention on deaths that could have been prevented,” says a note on the rankings.

Their calculations concluded that premature deaths cause Park County to lose 63 years of potential life per 1,000 residents.

Park County was ranked 9th for its health factors. Graphic courtesy countyhealthrankings.org
As for Park County’s quality of life, the rankings rely in part on a 2014 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That survey found 88 percent of county residents reported being in “excellent,” “very good” or “good” health — a couple percentage points better than Wyoming as a whole and roughly 4 percent better than the national median.

The survey also found that the average Park County resident reported having been physically and/or mentally unhealthy for about three of the prior 30 days; around 9 percent of residents reported that at least half their days were unhealthy.

The “health outcomes” category of the rankings were also based on what percentage of local babies were born with a low weight. (Being underweight can mean a higher risk of death for the child and also be an indicator of the mother’s health, the rankings site says.)

Data from the National Vital Statistics System, collected between 2007 and 2013, show that around 8 percent of the babies born in Park County had a low weight at their birth. That was roughly in-line with the state and country as a whole.

Other data compiled on the County Health Rankings’ website say:

  • About a quarter of Park County’s population, or 25 percent, is obese
  • Around one in four residents (23 percent) say they get no physical activity in their free time
  • Some 17 percent of local residents report either binge or heavy drinking
  • 28 percent of county residents don’t get enough sleep, snoozing less than seven hours a night
  • Around 16 percent of adults currently smoke
  • About 17 percent of county residents do not have health insurance

Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton says his office continues to work on improving many of the figures featured in the rankings. For example, to combat low birth weight, one of the things public health will teach mothers is to not induce labor early just for the sake of convenience, Crampton said.

Other public health efforts include promoting physical activity, offering opportunities for adults — and particularly mothers and new parents — to stop smoking, working to prevent suicides and helping run programs to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, he said.

The data used in the county rankings “are why we focus on some of those, just because of this information and the fact that our population is getting older,” Crampton said.

To view the compiled or raw data — or learn more about the rankings — visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

~By CJ Baker

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