Patrick Remington, MD, an associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says the ranking provide a broader perspective of a county's wellness by measuring health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.
"What the rankings tell us is that while access to medical care is critically important, (population health) is affected by much more than what happens at the doctor's office," he says. "This shows us that where we live matters to our health."
Remington wants cities and neighborhoods to use the rankings to identify and solve their particular problems. "After three years we are seeing that these rankings are changing the conversation about health in communities from one focused mainly on treatment or sick care to one that involves a more complete view about how we promote health through our communities, schools and workplaces," he says.
In Hernando, a city of about 12,000 people located south of Memphis, TN, community wellness is incremental and improves with each new bike path, sidewalk, and nutritional program.
The city requires any new development or redevelopment to include access for bicycles and pedestrians and not just cars. Hernando doesn't have money for new recreation and sports facilities, so the city is partnering with schools to use their gymnasiums after school for programs such as basketball leagues. Fourth- and fifth-graders in the city's schools have accepted Johnson's challenge to join him and other city officials in running a marathon—one mile at a time.