Rural Areas Are Less Healthy Than Suburbs, Says Report

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , February 18, 2010

Among the reported findings among the counties are:

  • Premature death rates. The least healthy counties have significantly higher rates of premature death—some are 2.5 times higher than the healthiest counties.
  • Self reported health. People living in the least healthy counties reported being in significantly poorer health—2.1 times higher rates of people who report being in fair or poor health, compared with the healthiest counties.
  • Smoking rates. People living in the least healthy counties are much more likely to smoke—more than 26%, compared to only 16% in the healthiest counties.
  • Preventable hospitalizations. People living in the least healthy counties are 60% more likely to be admitted to the hospital for preventable conditions—a sign of poor outpatient and primary care.
  • Children living in poverty. The least healthy counties have higher rates of poverty, with 30% of children living in poverty—more tan three times higher than the rate in the healthiest counties (9%).
  • Access to healthy foods. The 50 least healthy counties have fewer places where people can find healthy food—only 33% of zip codes have at least one grocery store, compared to almost half (47%) of zip codes in the healthiest counties.

Sometimes, a county's rank could show a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, Remington said. For instance, Woods County, OK, ranked first in the state for overall health, but ranked 48th out of 77 on clinical care access and quality.

Meanwhile, Carbon County, MT, ranked second in the state for overall health, but ranked 39th out of 44 on factors related to the physical environment, such as air pollution, access to healthy foods, and liquor store density.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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