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New County Health Rankings Show Differences In Health And Opportunity By Place And Race
Updated March 14, 2018 7:33 AM | Filed under: Health
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(UNDATED) - For nearly a decade, the County Health Rankings, released today, March 14th, have shown that where we live makes a difference in how well and how long we live.

This year, the analysis shows that meaningful health gaps persist not only by place but also by race and ethnicity. These health gaps are largely influenced by differences in opportunities that disproportionately affect people of color, such as access to quality education, jobs, and safe, affordable housing. Lawrence County Ranks 70th in the state in overall health. To learn more on Lawrence County's ranking click here.

This year's report shows some troubling trends. For example, after nearly a decade of improvement, we are seeing more babies born at low birthweight (8.2% in 2016, a 2% increase from 2014)-low birthweight is a key indicator of quality of life for mothers and babies. A pattern of disparity by race in low birthweight can be seen across the nation, with poor birth outcomes more likely among Blacks. Compared to White babies, Black babies are twice as likely to be born at low birthweight and about twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), compares counties within each state on more than 30 health-influencing factors such as education, jobs, and access to quality health care. The Rankings are available at

One of the connections this report illuminates between race and place is that segregated communities of color are more likely to be cut off from investments that promote good schools, affordable housing, and other opportunities for health. The U.S. has a long history of racism and discriminatory policies and practices that have limited the opportunities of people of color in choosing where to live, including practices like denying housing loans to people of color. Poor health exists in places segregated from opportunity. Decades of research show that residential segregation is a fundamental cause of health disparities in the US. This year's report shows Blacks in more segregated counties fare worse in rates of child poverty, infant mortality, and high school graduation than those in less segregated counties.

This year's Rankings explores important trends happening among the nation's children and youth:

Teen Births: There are strong ties between poverty and births among teens. Teen birth rates have been declining across community types and racial groups for more than a decade, with most recent data showing a US rate of 27 per 1,000 females, ages 15-19. Hispanic teens have seen the most improvement in birth rates, falling from 77.7 to 31.9 births per 1,000 females-- ages 15-19, from 2006 to 2016. Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native teens have also seen notable improvements. Teen birth rates are highest among counties in the Southwest and Southeast as well as parts of Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, and the Plains regions. These regions have seen little change over the last decade, while the East and West Coasts have seen improvements.

Children in Poverty: Poverty limits opportunities and increases the chance of poor health. Today, 1 in 5 children grow up in poverty. Available data show that, for the majority of U.S. counties, child poverty rates for American Indian/Alaskan Native, Black, or Hispanic children are higher than rates for White children, and these rates are often twice as high.

Visit to learn more.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and manages the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit

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