May 2, 2022 - News

Philadelphia at bottom of Pennsylvania county health rankings

County health factors rankings, 2022
Data: County Health Rankings; Map: Thomas Oide and Jared Whalen/Axios

Pennsylvania's healthiest counties are also among the least economically distressed.

  • That's the main takeaway from a new county health rankings report released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The big picture: Across the country, people with lower incomes and people of color have more limited 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.

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

Where we stand: Philadelphia ranked the lowest of Pennsylvania's 67 counties for both health outcomes and factors.

  • More than a third of Philadelphians are obese, per the report.
  • 27% of Philadelphia children live in poverty.
  • Families, on average, spend more than a third of their incomes on child care.

Meanwhile, neighboring Chester County ranks as the healthiest county for both health outcomes and factors in the commonwealth.

  • Chester County has a median household income of $104,161, significantly higher than the state's average of $63,627 and more than double Philadelphia's average of $49,127, according to census data.
  • More residents in Chester are insured, receive flu shots, have access to healthy food and get enough sleep, the data shows.

Of note: Neighboring suburban counties Montgomery and Bucks had a good showing.

  • Montgomery came in fourth in health outcomes and second in factors, while Bucks ranked seventh in outcomes and sixth in factors.

Between the lines: On average, Pennsylvania families with two children spend more than a quarter of their incomes on child care.

  • When an expense eats up a big chunk of a paycheck, it makes it harder for families to afford emergencies or other longterm expenses, like retirement, the report notes.

The bottom line: The report notes that higher wages would go a long way in 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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