The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has released its 2017 national County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and Marylanders are living longer, healthier lives. Compiled annually in collaboration with University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, the report is a national tool that ranks counties within states on 30 factors that impact health.
Now in its eighth year, the report helps illustrate that how long and how well people live depends on multiple factors, while also helping to lay the groundwork for health improvement efforts at state and local levels. Data is broken down into two major categories. “Health factors”, in which Harford‘s rank rose this year to within the top one-third of Maryland’s 24 local health jurisdictions, represent what influences the health of the county. The other major category called “health outcomes” sheds light on how healthy a county is. Harford’s relative statewide ranking dropped from fifth in last year’s report to ninth this year despite slight annual improvements in length of life, premature death and a number of other factors.
Increased access to both health insurance and health care are factors influencing Maryland’s and Harford’s reduction in premature death rates seen in this year’s Rankings. Maryland has seen uninsured rates decline from 10.1% in 2012 to 6.7% in 2015. These rates are largely attributable to the expansion of Medicaid and the establishment of Qualified Health Plans available through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
While the RWJ Health Rankings and associated “Roadmaps” summarize much about a local jurisdiction’s health status, Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly cautions there are no absolute nor comprehensive conclusions that can be drawn from any county profile. “Assessing our rates and ranking against State averages and those of other Maryland counties, the findings reflect health status in Harford remains stable and that Harford is relatively healthy by comparison. However, much depends on the health decisions and behaviors of Harford County residents. The information contained in these annual reports is only as meaningful as the actions they inspire. Most importantly, the data helps local leaders identify and prioritize the public health challenges we face and provides a springboard for strategic planning.”