Jefferson and Walker Counties made significant improvements in the past year in overall health outcomes, according to the eighth annual County Health Rankings, released recently by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI).
Jefferson County moved up in the state rankings from #28 to #17 in health outcomes. Walker County improved from #62 to #58. Shelby County remained in the #1 spot as the healthiest county in Alabama while St. Clair County came in at #16 and Blount County ranked #11.
The Bold Goals Coalition is dedicated to building healthy communities, and works in collaboration with the Jefferson and Walker County Health Action Partnerships. The coalition focuses on prevention, access to care and reduction of existing health disparities throughout Central Alabama as it strives for the goal of having all five counties in the region ranked in the top 10 in Alabama for health outcomes by 2025.
“By identifying evidence-based strategies, the Bold Goals Coalition’s work is increasing access to environments and care that empower individuals to make choices that will positively improve health. This method continues to show measurable results,” said Drew Langloh, President & CEO of United Way of Central Alabama and 2017 Chair of the Health Action Partnership of Jefferson County.
One of the most noticeable regional improvements is occurring in Walker County, which was ranked last (#67) in the state for health outcomes in 2015, moved up to #62 in 2016 and is now #58. “We are very pleased with the progress being made in Walker County toward our goal of a healthier community. The technical assistance from the partners of the Bold Goals Coalition has helped shape and lead our progress,” said Paul Kennedy, President of the Walker Area Community Foundation. “We are excited by the prospects of continued advancement in the health of our citizens, and are striving to make the top 10 by the target date of 2025.”
Other improvements in the five counties targeted by the Bold Goals Coalition include Jefferson County’s quality of life, which improved from #25 to #13 and Walker County’s health behaviors climbing from #37 to #26.
“I am greatly encouraged to see Jefferson County move up in the rankings so dramatically,” said Mark Wilson, MD, Health Officer and Chief Executive for the Jefferson County Department of Health. “But we cannot become complacent. The report also highlights several areas, such as children in poverty, violent crime and excessive commute times, all of which are difficult challenges to overcome.”
The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all, and are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.