Health & Fitness

Whatcom County residents are some of the healthiest in Washington, study finds

Here’s how Whatcom County stacks up on health

New health statistics compare Whatcom County's overall health to the national average.
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New health statistics compare Whatcom County's overall health to the national average.

Whatcom County residents are among the healthiest in Washington.

That’s the finding of a study published Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The 50-state study ranked every county by two metrics, health outcomes and health factors.

Health outcomes measure rates of premature deaths, percentages of people in poor or fair health, sick days and babies with low birth weight, among other trends.

Health factors measure health behaviors, clinical care, the physical environment and other social and economic conditions.

The report found that Whatcom County ranked No. 9 out of 39 on health outcomes. The county fell behind Kitsap County and ahead of Douglas County. Coming in at No. 1 was San Juan County. Ferry County came in at No. 39.

An estimated 14 percent of Whatcom County residents recorded being in poor or fair health, putting the county in line with the statewide average.

The county recorded fewer alcohol-impaired driving deaths (20 percent of overall driving deaths involved alcohol), sexually transmitted infections (326 per 100,000 people) and teen births (13 per 1,000 females) than the statewide average.

Elsewhere, the report showed Whatcom roughly on par with the state average for areas including clinical care and social and economic factors. Violent crime fell well below the statewide average at 194 reported offenses per 100,000 people — the state average was 294 offenses per 100,000 people.

But while the report held good news for some counties, it was far from universal.

“The data show that, in counties everywhere, not everyone has benefited in the same way from these health improvements,” the study found. “There are fewer opportunities and resources for better health among groups that have been historically marginalized, including people of color, people living in poverty, people with physical or mental disabilities, LGBTQ persons, and women.”

The study authors wrote that many of the differences in opportunity were “the result of policies and practices at many levels that have created deep-rooted barriers to good health, such as unfair bank lending practices, school funding based on local property taxes, and discriminatory policing and prison sentencing.”

“The collective effect is that a fair and just opportunity to live a long and healthy life does not exist for everyone. Now is the time to change how things are done,” the report concluded.

The full study can be found at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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