Routt County named one of the healthiest in the state |

Routt County named one of the healthiest in the state

National health study evaluated health, environment

Nicole Inglis

The Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership is exploring whether the concepts of Blue Zones might lead to longer, happier, more active lives in Steamboat Springs.

— Routt County is the ninth healthiest county in the state, according to the annual County Health Rankings released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to the rankings, Routt is ninth of 57 ranked counties, with Douglas County at No. 1 and Huerfano County in southeast Colorado at the bottom of the list.

Seven counties were not included in the study.

Researchers used five factors in determining the overall health of a county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health; the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health; and the rate of low-birth-weight infants.

Yampa Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said a healthy population stems from access to primary care.

"A real key part to healthy people is for them to go for annual checkups as well a checkups when they're sick," McKelvie said. Primary care physicians "see so much of the health issues in the county."

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Researchers also took into account social, economic and environmental factors, and availability of clinical care. Adult smoking and drinking, the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, preventable hospital stays, high school graduation rates, children in poverty, access to healthy food and air pollution levels were considered in the rankings.

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association spokeswoman Suzi Mariano said the study reflects a relatively happy and healthy population that she hopes the VNA contributes to with early detection screenings and public health programs.

However, she said among these varying factors, a few stood out as areas in which Routt County could improve.

Although the 2011 breakdown of data was not available by press time, Mariano said the rate of excessive alcohol consumption in all resort mountain counties — Eagle, Pitkin, Summit and Routt — was alarming in the data.

She also noted that the number of uninsured adults in Routt County was listed at 23 percent in the study's data but is closer to 33 percent in reality.

Nevertheless, she said studies like the County Health Rankings help the VNA meet the needs of residents.

"It helps us shape services," she said. "We're always looking at population and what the needs are. If we can keep providing the services we do and keep improving, we can keep making them more accessible and more available."

The health of the aging population also was a major factor in the rankings, and Routt County Council on Aging Executive Director Laura Schmidt said the community of seniors contribute to the overall health of the county.

"They bond together and take care of each other and enjoy doing things socially together," Schmidt said. "That really contributes to quality of life for them."

The overall culture of the area is an important factor on the rankings, Mariano said.

"We're active, and people love to be outside, and hopefully people are teaching their kids those same activities and that lifestyle," she said.

Healthiest counties

The 10 healthiest counties in Colorado:

  1. Douglas
  2. Eagle
  3. Pitkin
  4. Boulder
  5. Summit
  6. Elbert
  7. Broomfield
  8. Larimer
  9. Routt
  10. Gunnison

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Source: University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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