County Health Rankings: Valley County is Idaho’s healthiest

Idaho has some good things going for it: Residents largely have access to gyms, trails and other locations for exercise; we don’t overdo it when it comes to preventable hospital stays; and most of our children are being raised in two-parent families.

And if you live in Valley County, you are fortunate to live in one of Idaho’s healthiest counties.

This is all according to The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHRR), which were published today. The report analyzes a heap of data to evaluate our overall health and well-being at the community level. It evaluates individual counties according to their overall health, which can be either quite exciting or distressing, depending on your county’s ranking. 

The rankings have become an annual event since 2011. Before this report, many of us thought our health was defined by how much and what we eat, and how often we exercise. But we have come to realize our health is affected by where we live, learn, work and play.  It is affected by our access to healthcare, the quality of our water and air, the availability of places to enjoy physical activity, and how obese we are.

And there are factors that do not directly correlate to the size of our individual waistlines but are extremely important to our overall community health.  These include the percent of youth who graduate from high school, the crime rate in our neighborhoods, teen pregnancy rates, and preventable hospital says.  All told, the rankings evaluate 35 measures that all play a key role in our individual and community health.

In examining Idaho’s well-being, there are several measures that jump out as either prominently exceeding or falling short of the national median. Here are a few we have gleaned from the study:

The Good State Measures

Percent of population with adequate access to locations for physical activity
U.S Median Idaho Idaho Counties Range Best County
62% 75% 11% – 92% Ada, 92% 

Preventable hospital stays: Number of hospital stays for ambulatory-care sensitive conditions per 1,000 Medicare enrollees

U.S Median Idaho Idaho Counties Range Best County
60 per 1,000 33 18-67 Tie: Blaine and Valley, 18%

Percent of children who live in a home headed by a single parent

U.S Median Idaho Idaho County Range Best County
32% 25% 10% – 41% Tie: Custer, Fremont and Madison, 10%

The Not-So-Good State Measures

Sexually transmitted diseases: Number of newly diagnosed chlamydia cases per 100,00 population

U.S Median Idaho Idaho Counties Range Best County
288 per 100,000 340 35 – 622 Madison, 35%

High School Graduation: Percent of 9-graders who graduate in four years

U.S Median Idaho Idaho Counties Range Best County
86% 81% 24% – 100% Madison, 100% 

Percent of driving deaths with alcohol impairment

U.S Median Idaho Idaho Counties Range Best County
31% 33% 0% – 67% Tie: Adams, Butte, Oneida, 0%

One other measurement that may catch your eye is the rate of premature deaths.   This measurement evaluates the years of potential life lost before the age of 75 per 100,000 people.  As an example, a person who dies prematurely at age 30 contributes 45 years of premature death to the measurement. A person who dies at age 70 contributes five years. By calculating the number per 100,000 people, the study provides a comparable rate for both large and small counties.

With this measurement, the national years of premature death was calculated at 7,700. We did much better in Idaho at 6,100. The counties with the lowest rate for premature death include:

  • Valley – 3,200
  • Blaine – 3,600
  • Teton – 4,200
  • Ada – 5,000.

The counties with a higher rate of premature death include:

  • Clearwater – 12,200
  • Shoshone – 9,800
  • Caribou – 9,500
  • Benewah – 9,400
  • Nez Perce – 8,700.

In evaluating the data, we realize much of it can be skewed by a low sampling size in counties that have small populations.  For example, the percent of alcohol-impaired driving deaths shows Gem County was 67%, while Boundary had 0%. That makes it look like Gem County has a problem; however, there were only three total driving deaths in Gem, and only two in Boundary.  The numbers can skew dramatically by a small change in data.

The rankings provide more than data. The website is interactive and highlights areas that counties can explore to improve. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also provides community coaches who will work with county leaders to plan strategies to improve the health of their residents at the local level.

So how does your county compare? The top five Idaho counties ranked according to the study’s criteria are:

  1. Valley
  2. TIE: Ada, Blaine
  3. Teton
  4. Kootenai

The bottom five includes:

  1. Clearwater
  2. Benewah
  3. Owyhee
  4. Shoshone
  5. Lemhi

You can find an array of data, rankings, and information about how to improve the health of your communities at www.countyhealthrankings.org .

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One thought on “County Health Rankings: Valley County is Idaho’s healthiest

  1. Pingback: County Health Rankings: Valley County is Idaho’s healthiest | Panhandle HealthWatch

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