County makes 'modest' health gains

Pierce County appears to be getting healthier compared to other counties in Washington but is still doing poorly in physical and environmental health indicators such as smoking, preventative care and commuting. In an annual statewide study, Pierce County saw an improvement in its 2015 County Health Rankings over last year. Out of 39 counties in the state, Pierce moved up a four places to 21st, which a top health official for the county called "modestGÇ¥ improvement. Nevertheless, it's the first time Pierce County has improved by more than one spot since the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began the annual review that addresses how long people live and how healthy people feel. The county ranked 25th in 2014 and 26th in 2013. The 2015 rankings show a health outcomes rank of 21 and a health factors ranking of 25. "We are encouraged to see a modest increase in our health outcomes,GÇ¥ said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, director of health for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. "But we know we have a long way to go in Pierce County to ensure that all of our residents can experience good health outcomes, regardless of where they live, learn, work or play.GÇ¥ In the 2015 rankings, Pierce County fared worse than the state in: " Premature deaths. " Poor physical health days. " Smoking among adults. " Teen births. " Preventable hospital stays. " Mammography screening. " Children in single-parent households. " Driving alone to work. " Long commutes for residents. Like 2014, Pierce County's lowest ranking of 28 was in the health behaviors category, which accounts for smoking rates, adult obesity, access to exercise opportunities, a food environment index and sexually-transmitted infections, officials said. For example, the county had the highest rate of chlamydia infections in the state as of the 2013 national data. It also scored lowest (28) in the physical environment category, which encompass housing problems, driving alone to work, and long commutes. The county also decreased its health factors rank from 22 in 2014 to 25 in 2015. Social and economic factors that affect health outcomes, and concerns already identified in the Community Health Status Assessment, include the high school graduation rate, ratio of primary care, dentists and mental health providers and violent crime rate. Social factors come into play when considering health inequities'the underlying conditions that influence our health outcomes. While it's valuable to track the county's progress through various rankings, focusing on improving known long-term community health problems is more productive, according to Chen. "The County Health Rankings are one of several important sets of indicators that rank our county's performance concerning health outcomes,GÇ¥ Chen said. "Each indicator reinforces important information, but we already know we need to make improvements in Pierce County's health.GÇ¥ Pierce County's Community Health Improvement Plan to address major health problems was completed in 2014 in a project involving CHI Franciscan Health, MultiCare Health System, Group Health and University of Washington-Tacoma. It's available at the Health Department's web site ( The County Health Rankings, published online at, consider measures that affect health, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity and births to teenage mothers. The rankings are compiled in all 50 states. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest philanthropy organization devoted exclusively to health and health care in the United States.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment