Looking at 30 health factors throughout the state, a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) found that if all counties in the state had the same access to healthcare, healthy environment, crime rate, and level of education — among other factors — the number of premature deaths could be reduced by 6,400 every year.
The biggest gaps among counties were in the following areas: unemployment; income inequality; rate of single-parent households; rate of violent crime; severe housing problems; and commute time.
For instance, the best New Jersey counties had an unemployment rate of 6 percent, while the worst had one of 12 percent. Some counties had 17 percent of families in single-parent households; others had 44 percent. The least violent counties had 74 violent crimes last year per 100,000 residents; the worst had 534 offenses per 100,000. Similar differences were found in the number of doctors, mental-health providers, and dentists, as well with such issues as adult smoking and sexually transmitted infections.
The report suggests that policymakers may want to evaluate these factors to see how the state can level the playing field.