May 11, 2022 - News

Douglas County ranks as healthiest in Colorado

Data: County Health Rankings; Map: Thomas Oide and Jared Whalen/Axios

Colorado's healthiest counties are also among its most affluent, according to a new county health rankings analysis by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The big picture: Nationwide, people with lower incomes and people of color disproportionately lack access to affordable care and opportunities that lead to better health.

How it works: The report, using data collected between 2014 and 2021, evaluates counties on health outcomes — length and quality of life — and health factors.

  • Those include access to health care, tobacco use, diet and exercise, education, employment, income, air and water quality, transit, housing and more.

Zoom in: Douglas County, just south of Denver, ranks No. 1 for longer and better quality of life. As we've previously reported, the area also had the lowest poverty rate in the state in 2020.

  • On the other end of the spectrum, Costilla County in southern Colorado — an area with the second-highest poverty rate in the state — had the lowest health score.
  • Of note: Data was not available for Jackson, Kiowa, San Juan, Hinsdale and Mineral counties.

Zoom out: Colorado's health factors track relatively close with the national average, but we do slightly better on factors such as premature deaths; adult smoking and obesity rates; access to exercise opportunities; children in poverty; violent crime; and air pollution.

  • Colorado performs a little worse than the national average in areas including low birth weights; alcohol-impaired driving deaths; available primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers; and injury-related deaths.

The bottom line: The report notes that higher wages would go a long way toward improving health care access and result in better health outcomes.

  • "Living wages cover basic needs and are essential to live a healthy life," the researchers wrote.
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