Routt County ranks 10th among Colorado’s healthiest counties | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County ranks 10th among Colorado’s healthiest counties

Kyra Alexander rides her bike at Steamboat Ski Area. Routt County was ranked the 10th in state in the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County continues to be one of the healthiest places to live in Colorado, placing 10th in the most recent County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

"Anytime you are in the top-10, it is good," said Kari Ladrow, Northwest Colorado Health’s director of public health.

The report ranked 58 of Colorado’s 64 counties using different health indicators such as smoking, adult obesity, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted infection and teen births. Quality of life issues, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment were also considered.

The healthiest county in the state was Douglas followed by Boulder, Broomfield and Eagle counties. Steamboat came in just behind Summit with Costilla County at the bottom of the list. Six counties in Colorado did not report.

"Last time, we were fourth," Ladrow said. "There are a couple of different things that could have happened. Some of the counties in front of us could have gotten healthier, which would be great for them. A few of the things that were kind of red flags for us in Routt County were excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired deaths and then housing — a severe housing problem."

In Routt County, 23 percent of the population admits binge or heavy drinking compared to an average of 21 percent in the state of Colorado. Routt County was also above the state average in traffic fatalities where 47 percent involved alcohol impairment. In the area of housing, Routt County reported 21 percent of the population faced either overcrowding, high housing costs or lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities.

Recommended Stories For You

But the news from the report wasn't all bad. 

Ladrow said Routt County did very well in areas like teen pregnancy where there were 11 births per 1,000 females in the population between the ages of 15 and 19 compared to a state average of 25 births per 1,000. Routt County also did well in the area of adult obesity with only 14 percent of the local population reporting a body mass index of 30 or more compared to the state average of 21 percent. 

Routt County also was below the state average in physical inactivity and adult smoking. It was above average in high school graduation and the number of residents with some college education. The county's unemployment rate was lower than the state average as was the percentage of children living in poverty and children living in single-family homes. The number of violent crimes and injury deaths was also below the state average.

"We have programs already in place to work on some things," Larow said. "I'm really proud to be a part of a community that values health, and I think being in the top-10 is a pretty big testimony to the residents of Routt County."

Ladrow believes the care offered by Northwest Colorado Health, which offers primary, behavioral and dental care to everyone regardless of their ability to pay, plays a big role in keeping the community healthy. 

"I think with this particular study one of the things to highlight is the prevention component of it," Ladrow said. "It's a lot easier to prevent illness rather than to deal with the consequences later. It is important to invest in the health of the community first and foremost.

“This is an opportunity to look at where we can invest in citizens and where we can make that happen,” Ladrow continued. “Whether it is connections within the community to keep youth engaged or whether it is ensuring that everybody has health coverage. We need to make sure that we make an investment in our community’s health."

To view the county health rankings report, visit http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/colorado/2018/rankings/routt/county/outcomes/overall/snapshot.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.