JOHNSON CITY – Residents of Northeast Tennessee, especially those in Washington County, have reason to take heart in the latest County Health Rankings, which were released across the Volunteer State and the nation today.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute researched and published the 2013 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which assesses the health of almost every county in the United States based on a variety of factors.
The rankings can be broken down broadly into two columns. The first, "Health Outcomes," is a measure of how healthy a county is today, while "Health Factors" reflects the steps a county is taking to become healthier in the future.
This year, Williamson County was ranked first overall for the second consecutive time and was the leader of a cluster of counties in Middle Tennessee that ranked high among the Volunteer State’s 95 counties. Williamson was also first in Health Factors.
In Northeast Tennessee, Washington County led the way with an overall Health Outcomes ranking of 21, up from 31 a year ago. Neighboring counties and their rankings include Sullivan (No. 43), Unicoi (44), Hawkins (56), Carter (61), Greene (65), Johnson (70), Cocke (85) and Hancock (93).
But Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, said a closer look at the County Health Rankings gives Northeast Tennessee a better read and cause for more optimism.
Most counties in Northeast Tennessee ranked higher – some much higher – when looking at Health Factors. Washington County ranked fourth in Health Factors, while Sullivan (13) and Unicoi (20) were also in the top 25 percent, with Hawkins (31) and Carter (41) in the top half.
"If one takes more than a passing glance at the County Health Rankings, it’s clear that there are many positives that Northeast Tennesseans can take away, especially the residents of Washington County," Wykoff said. "For the fourth year in a row, Washington County has ranked in the top three counties for ‘clinical care’ in all of Tennessee. That’s quite an impressive reflection of the health systems in this region, and it illustrates the impact that having an academic health sciences center at ETSU has on the region.
"While there is much to celebrate," Wykoff added, "there is still much to be done. Poor health impacts all of us – the business community, our school systems, and, most of all, our families. I encourage everyone to take a look at the rankings and identify the greatest health challenges each of our communities faces, and then make a commitment to work together to make the changes necessary. When we do that, our Health Outcomes will be as good as our Health Factors."