Despite the commitment and valiant efforts of healthcare providers across the nation to improve health in their communities, they can't do it alone.
The benefits of a half-hour visit with a healthcare provider can quickly evaporate if the patient returns to his own reality and resumes the unhealthy behaviors that prompted his call for care in the first place.
It's increasingly clear that any attempt to improve population health will require a coordinated effort, not just tactically between healthcare providers, but also strategically and involving healthcare providers, educators, government, businesses and charities such as the United Way.
Fortunately, there's a handy tool out there to help providers and other community leaders identify the health needs of their areas. The 4th annual County Health Rankings assesses the health of almost every county in the United States and ranks the counties within their states. The rankings were compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The data provide a status report on critical population health metrics such as morbidity, access to care, overweight and obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, sexual activity, educational attainment, pre-natal and infant health, and teen pregnancy.
Angela R. Russell, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, says the data provides an "annual snapshot" at a somewhat granular level that is detailed enough to allow local leaders to develop targeted remedies.