Children’s health is touched deeply and pervasively by where they live, learn, and play – long before they get to the doctor’s office or dentist’s chair.
This week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released their annual County Health Rankings. This easy-to-use snapshot compares counties within states to show that where you live influences how well and how long you live.
The local level data makes it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond healthcare including housing, education, jobs, access to healthy foods, and more. Health begins in strong, loving families. It begins in neighborhoods that guarantee safety and foster healthy practices.
According to the 2017 Rankings, Oldham, Boone, Spencer, Shelby, and Woodford are among the Kentucky counties with the best health outcomes, while Breathitt, Wolfe, Owsley, Knott, and Harlan are among the counties with the worst health outcomes.
If we really want to improve children’s health, we need to start with their families, their neighborhoods, and their schools. It begins with accessible grocery stores that have fresh fruits and vegetables and public places with clean, smoke-free air. Health is safe and nurturing early care settings for infants and toddlers. It is a good education and having the family financial resources needed to make ends meet.
The County Health Rankings show that all Kentucky counties can take action to improve their communities health, no matter where they rank.
No single institution, policy, or program can build a healthy Kentucky that nurtures families and communities. Instead, it is about strategic and common sense efforts from local communities, Frankfort, and Washington. Then, and only then, will progress toward better health be a Bluegrass reality.
To find data on topics beyond health, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#KY.