OLYMPIA - Thurston County ranks 6th healthiest among Washington State counties in the nationwide County Health Rankings released yesterday. In 2012, Thurston County ranked 14th healthiest in the state, and just last year, the County measured in as the 7th healthiest. The rankings are produced annually by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The County Health Rankings grade counties across the state, as well as at a national level, based on how healthy people are today. In addition, the ranking measures indicators of how healthy the community will be in the future.
In 2013, the Thurston County Board of Health, together with members of the community, formed the Thurston Thrives community health initiative. Thurston Thrives focuses on improving health for all people who live, work, and play in our communities. “The ranking demonstrates that collective action, and a focus on local health priorities can make a difference,” said Board of Health Chair, Bud Blake. “We need to do more work to bring children out of poverty, continue progress on unemployment, reduce social determinants of health, and support healthy and affordable housing. We’re proud that Thurston Thrives brings community members together to focus on health and well-being.”
Thurston County scores better than the state of Washington on several measures covered by the County Health Rankings including: fewer people dying young (prematurely), fewer people without health care, lower rates of violent crime, and fewer preventable hospital stays. Health officials and community leaders agree that more can be done to make Thurston County a healthy, safe, vibrant community for all residents. The Thurston Thrives Coordinating Council, along with eight Action Teams and one Workgroup address key areas of health that make a difference in quality and length of life for area residents.
The County Health Rankings shows that focusing on health behaviors and social/economic factors is making a positive difference. However, with Thurston County ranked 14th in clinical care and 18th for measures that describe the physical environment, there continues to be a need to focus on access to quality health care, and living in a healthy environment.
“As we move forward, it will be important to focus more on how we can address health equity in our county. We see differences in peoples’ health based on a range of characteristics including where someone lives, whether they have a disability, how much money they make, as well as gender and ethnicity,” said Schelli Slaughter, Department Director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services. “To move our ranking up, our Department and community needs to understand and discuss these differences, then take action to change them for the better”.