Grand County health ranks high in Colorado, according to report
Every spring, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, releases a list of health rankings by county for the entire U.S.
The findings, issued this year on March 29, delve into numerous health-related topics health outcomes, length of life, clinical care and physical environment. The report shows relatively positive news for Grand County, which is ranked 12 in overall health outcomes and 13 in health factors in Colorado, out of a total of 64 counties.
The results for the health rankings released this year cover data collected over the past several years, which varies depending upon the topics being measured. According to the data, Grand County’s leading cause of premature death, which includes all deaths among people under age 75, is malignant neoplasms, also known as malignant tumors. According to the health rankings, a total of 40 residents, or roughly 72.9 percent of all deaths, in Grand County from 2012 to 2014 were caused such illnesses.
Rounding out the leading causes of death in Grand County were: diseases of the heart with 13 deaths, intentional self-harm (suicide) with 13 deaths and accidents (unintentional injuries) at 12 deaths.
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“The County Health Rankings are a snapshot of the health of each county,” stated Grand County Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue. “While Grand County is overall a healthy county, we can still take action to improve the health of our population.” Belew-LaDue explained the Rankings do not serve as place markers in a race to the top, but instead about showing trends and encouraging progress towards broader health goals. Belew-LaDue highlighted that Grand County Public Health is in the initial phase of their Community Health Assessment, mandated to occur every five-years.
“Citizen involvement is essential to assess the health of our county,” she stated. If you are interested in participating the Grand County Public Health Assessment please contact Grand County’s Department Public Health to find out how you can get involved.
The report states a total of 15 percent of Grand County’s adult residents are smokers, just below the statewide average of 16 percent. Grand County is fairly fit, in terms of adult weight figures. The rankings report states 17 percent of Grand County’s adults are considered obese, having a body mass index of 30 or more. Grand County is among the thinnest counties in Colorado; Eagle County comes in lowest with an obese adult population of only 12 percent. Those figures are well below Kit Carson County, the heaviest county in the state, at 28 percent.
The report also shows Grand County is above statewide averages for alcohol intake. According to the data, 21 percent of Grand County’s adult population engages in excessive drinking. The figure is slightly above the statewide average of 19 percent.
Alcohol appears to be having an impact on driving deaths in the County as well, which were calculated well above statewide averages. The report records 12 driving deaths in Grand County from 2011 to 2015 of which 10 are considered alcohol-impaired driving deaths, meaning roughly 83 percent of Grand County’s driving fatalities during that period involved alcohol. “Alcohol-impaired driving deaths” does not necessarily mean the individual who died in the crash was drunk, but that alcohol was present in the blood system of either a driver involved in a fatal accident or a non-motorist, such as a pedestrian or bicyclist, involved in a fatal accident.
The report notes that Grand County’s small population size of less than 20,000 can produce wide fluctuations in the data from a small number of events; the figure for alcohol-impaired driving deaths in 2009 was 25 percent. Grand County has experienced a solid upward trend in alcohol related driving deaths though for the past several years.
Not surprisingly, Grand County ranks very high on the list for physical environment, coming in sixth in the state. The report examines air pollution levels, drinking water violations, housing problems, the percentage of workers who commute to work alone, and the percentage of drivers who have long work commutes. The report defines a long commute as being 30 mintes or more, one way.
Grand County’s air pollution figure, calculated as the average daily density of fine particulate matter in the air, is among the lowest in the state. Grand County’s air quality is calculated as the 19th best in the state. Most counties with higher levels of air quality are in the southwest quadrant of Colorado. Weld County on the eastern plains had the worst calculated air quality in the state, with a air particulate figure almost twice Grand County’s level.
On the housing side of things the health rankings report tallies 795 households in Grand County as facing severe housing problems, or roughly 15 percent. The report defines severe housing problems as one of four different issues including: housing lacking complete kitchen facilities or complete plumbing, severe overcrowding of more than 1.5 persons per room, and severe cost burdens with housing costs including utilities exceeding 50 percent of monthly income. The report does not break down the 795 households facing problems into the four separate categories. Grand County’s 15 percent figure for housing problems is just below the statewide average of 17 percent.
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