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Interactive Map: New Jersey's Healthiest Counties

Colleen O'Dea | March 28, 2013

Areas of the state with lower per-household income tend have fewer insured residents, more illness.

Health Outcomes Rank

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6 - 10

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A ranking of counties by health outcome measures using an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. To find much more information about health factors in any county, click on the county.

Source: 2013 County Health Rankings

New Jersey’s healthiest counties are also its richest, and have the greatest number of residents who are insured, according to new County Health Rankings.

The reverse tends to be true, as well, although the correlation is not as strong. For instance, Passaic County has the second-largest rate of people under age 65 without insurance and the fourth-lowest median household income, but it ranks roughly in the middle of New Jersey’s counties on health-related measures considered by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which publishes the rankings every year.

Among the most disturbing trends is that those counties ranked unhealthiest had significantly higher rates of premature death than the healthiest counties – on average, more than double.

Rural Cumberland County ranked lowest in New Jersey on both health outcomes that measure premature death: low birth-weight babies and quality of life and health factors (which include alcohol and tobacco use, access to care and education, and the environment).

The state’s poorest county, with a median household income of $49,465, Cumberland also had the highest rate of people dying too early – defined as before age 75.

On the other hand, Somerset County, which ranked among the top three counties on those measures, had the lowest premature death rate. In Somerset, premature deaths equate to a loss of about 37 years of life per 1,000 people, while in Cumberland, that rate is 82 years per 1,000 people, or almost one year for every person.

The data also show that the healthiest counties tend to have the lowest percentage of smokers and people who are obese, as well as the highest proportions of adults who are physically active.

Conversely, counties with more smokers, more obese people and more inactive adults tend to rank among the least healthy.

This is the fourth year that the foundation and the university have released rankings, which are intended to spur officials, businesses and residents to take actions to improve people’s health.

The ratings take into account 25 factors, some of which are not so obvious -- for instance, the percentage of children living in single-parent households – but have been linked to health.

“The County Health Rankings can be put to use right away by leaders in government, business, healthcare, and every citizen motivated to work together to create a culture of health in their community,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and chief executive of the RWJ foundation. “The Rankings are driving innovation, unleashing creativity, and inspiring big changes to improve health in communities large and small throughout the country.”

Although the rankings released last week are dated 2013 and are the most current available, some of the information used date back several years. The rankings, all the data, and ways to compare counties and learn more are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

The map shows how the counties ranked on health outcomes. While these tend to correlate closely with the health factors ratings, that is not always the case – for instance, Hudson ranked third from the bottom in health factors, it was closer to the middle in health outcomes. Click on a county to see its rankings and some of the data on which these were based. To see all the data, clicking on the link inside a county’s information box leads to a spreadsheet with all of its data.

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