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State Health Rankings released

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PRINCETON, N.J., AND MADISON, WIS. (March 26, 2014) – Williamson County ranks as the healthiest county in Tennessee, according to the fifth annual “County Health Rankings” released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). The rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org .

The “County Health Rankings” rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.

According to the 2014 rankings, the five healthiest counties in Tennessee, starting with most healthy, are Williamson, Rutherford, Blount, Sumner and Wilson, followed by Loudon, Smith, Robertson, Putnam and Montgomery to round out the top 10. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Grundy, Hancock, Claiborne, Fentress and Campbell.

The Tennessee Institute of Public Health (TNIPH), which is housed in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University, and the Tennessee Department of Health work together to actively promote the annual release of the rankings. To further support this year’s rankings release, TNIPH will team with the Healthy Appalachia Institute in Virginia to host a regional event in downtown Bristol to address common health issues across state borders.

Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the ETSU College of Public Health and executive director of TNIPH, said, “The first step in any effort to improve health in a community is to know the facts. The County Health Rankings provide an unequaled opportunity for community leaders to know where their strengths and weaknesses are. With that information, communities can directly address their most pressing needs.”

Ginny Kidwell, TNIPH program director, said that the rankings illustrate that where people live can influence how well and how long they live.

“The rankings clearly show that much of our health is connected to where we live, work and play,” she said.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “The ‘County Health Rankings’ are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come.”

The rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. Nationally, this year’s rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties. Unhealthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births as the healthiest counties. This year’s rankings also feature several new measures, including housing, transportation and access to mental health providers.

The “County Health Rankings”is part of the “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.  The program includes the “Roadmaps to Health” Action Center, which provides local leaders with tools, step-by-step guides and stories to help communities identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to live healthy lives.

The program also includes the annual “RWJF Culture of Health Prize,”which celebrates communities who are harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and stakeholders to build a culture of health.  This year’s prize winners and the call for 2014-2015 prize applications will be announced in June.

“The ‘County Health Rankings’ show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings—where we live, learn, work, and play,” said Dr. Bridget Catlin, director of the rankings project. “The ‘County Health Rankings’ often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents and others to work together for better health.”