Wake County ranks healthiest in North Carolina and Robeson County is the least healthy county in the state, according to the ninth annual County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org. Watauga County ranked 8th in the state.

An easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states, the Rankings show that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The local-level data make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including housing, education, and jobs.

This year’s new Rankings State Reports show meaningful gaps in health persist not only by place, but also by race and ethnicity. Looking at differences by place and race offers a more complete picture of health. This year’s analyses show that lack of opportunity, such as education, jobs, and affordable housing, disproportionately affects people of color across the nation and within North Carolina. The new Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers of health such as children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health. Children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced and quality schools, and have fewer chances to be prepared for living wage jobs. The North Carolina State Report reveals that in North Carolina, 22 percent of children live in poverty, compared to the U.S. rate of 20 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups in North Carolina, rates of children in poverty range from 11 percent to 38 percent with Hispanic children faring the worst and Asian/Pacific Islander children faring the best.

State health experts are developing strategies focused on investing in the health of all North Carolinians. “We need to do more to address the true underlying drivers of health, if we want to see improvements and decrease health care costs.” said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer. “Our vision is a North Carolina that optimizes health and well-being for all people by effectively stewarding resources that bridge our communities and our healthcare system.” Our children will become more resilient, and grow into stronger, healthier adults with greater economic opportunities if we build communities with quality education, emotional and social support, access to quality health care, and safe, affordable, and stable housing.

“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults – regardless of their race or ethnicity – have the same opportunities to be healthy.”

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in North Carolina, starting with most healthy, are Wake County, followed by Orange County, Camden County, Union County, and Mecklenburg County. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Robeson County, Scotland County, Vance County, Edgecombe County, and Columbus County.

Around the High Country, Watauga County is ranked 8th, Yancey County 29th, Avery is ranked 32nd, Ashe County 46th, Mitchell County is 47th and Alleghany is 59th.

“The time is now to address long-standing challenges like child poverty,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, PhD, RN, director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “This year’s Rankings are a call to action to see how these persistent health gaps play out locally, take an honest look at their root causes, and work together to give everyone a fair shot at a healthier life.”

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and
those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit http://uwphi.pophealth.wisc.edu.