The 4th annual County Health Rankings were released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and McCreary County continues to rank among the unhealthiest in Kentucky.
The county is not alone, the rankings show, as the least healthy Kentuckians tend to live in the Appalachian swath of the state. Counties which surround the urban centers of Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati have the highest rankings.
According to the 2013 Rankings, the five counties in Kentucky that ranked highest for health outcomes are Oldham, followed by Boone, Shelby, Lyon, and Spencer. The five counties in Kentucky with the highest health factors are Oldham, Woodford, Boone, Fayette and Scott.
This is the second year in a row Oldham County has led the list for health outcomes.
Floyd County ranked at the bottom, followed by Perry, Breathitt, Wolf and Lee counties.
This annual report takes a look at multiple factors that influence the health of communities and assesses counties’ health outcomes and health factors, such as lifestyle and access to care, that also impact health and well-being.
The rankings take into consideration health outcomes, such as illness and death rates, as well as factors that influence health, like smoking, access to health care, socioeconomic status and physical environment.
While the community has a long way to go, McCreary County’s overall rank is improving. The county ranked 89 in health outcomes — up from 94 last year, 95 in 2011 and 112 in 2010. Some 41 percent of the local population reported being in poor or fair health.
In terms of health factors, however, the county ranked dead last at 120 — down from 117 last year.
The report examined numerous health factors that affect health within four categories: health behavior (where McCreary ranked 116), clinical care (ranking 94), social and economic factors (ranking 116), and physical environment (ranking 95). Some specific factors of study included rates of:
• adult smoking — 39 percent of McCreary adults smoke as opposed to the Kentucky average of 26 percent and 13 percent nationwide.
• adult obesity — 32 percent locally, a little better than the 33 percent Kentucky average but behind the 25 percent national benchmark.
• excessive drinking among adults — At 10 percent, McCreary County is solidly between Kentucky’s 12 percent and the national seven percent averages.
• teenage births — At 81, McCreary’s teen birth rate is significantly higher than Kentucky’s 50 or 21 nationwide.
The report also assessed issues such as the number of uninsured adults (22 percent locally), availability of primary care providers (a local ratio of 3,053 to 1), children in poverty (48 percent locally) and preventable hospital stays (116 locally).
Neighboring Pulaski County ranked 49 overall and 50 in health factors. Wayne County ranked 46 and 100, respectively, while Whitley County ranked 96 and 71.
“This report demonstrates public health successes and highlights opportunities for improvement in counties across the state,” said Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield Gibson, M.D. “It helps us understand the factors leading to health in different parts of the state and how those factors result in various patterns. This information can be used to frame further community discussions as we move forward in building a healthier Kentucky. ”
“We all have a stake in creating a healthier community and no single sector alone can tackle the health challenges in any given community,” said Patrick Remington, MD, MPH, professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Collaboration is critical. The Rankings are sparking action all over the country as people from all sectors join forces to create new possibilities in health — county by county.”
More information can be found at