VDH releases 2021 County Health Rankings: Where does your locality rank?
The annual County Health Rankings, courtesy the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, are available at countyhealthrankings.org.
According to the 2021 rankings, the five healthiest counties in Virginia, starting with the most healthy, are Arlington, Loudoun, Falls Church City, Fairfax and Alexandria City.
The five counties with the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are the cities of Petersburg, Galax, Covington, Martinsville and Hopewell.
Albemarle County ranks fifth, Augusta County 19th, Rockingham County 21st, Charlottesville 23rd, Harrisonburg 37th and Rockbridge County 46th among the 133 Virginia localities.
Three local cities don’t rank as well: Staunton is 65th, Waynesboro 78th and Lexington 79th.
“We at the Virginia Department of Health are extremely proud that Arlington and the rest of the Northern Virginia region enjoy such good health, as recognized by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute,” State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said.
“We know many factors affect public health, and the Commonwealth has made great strides in recent years, but we also know there are healthcare gaps that Virginia and its leaders must address going forward as we navigate our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will not let up in our efforts to create healthy communities and improve healthy outcomes for all people in Virginia,.” Oliver said.
“Arlington and areas like Northern Virginia have much to celebrate, being highly ranked in many areas contributing to excellent health, including employment and education,” said Reuben K. Varghese, MD, MPH, director, Arlington Health District. “And yet, in areas with such wonderful overall health outcomes, there are significant disparities even within a 26-square-mile jurisdiction where there is a decade of difference in life expectancy between census tracts.”
Even within Virginia’s healthiest counties, health disparities and inequities still exist within their borders, similar to what is seen at the statewide level. By looking beyond aggregate data and drilling down into results by different ethnic, racial and other often marginalized groups, we can see that health disparities exist among groups in the Commonwealth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted these disparities in health. VDH has a continued commitment to making all people in Virginia aware of these inequities, and encourages its local health departments to focus their communities’ attention on these issues and work with all populations to create the conditions that are needed for optimal health and well-being.
The data used to calculate the 2021 rankings are from 2019 and earlier and do not yet reflect the impact of the pandemic or programs health districts have implemented in the last year to improve health in their communities. The 2021 rankings highlight the differences in health and opportunity by place as well as the health barriers disproportionately impacting communities of color and families with lower incomes.
The impact of the pandemic will begin to emerge in the 2022 County Health Rankings data.
The Crater Health District, which includes Petersburg, is promoting healthy eating and physical activity through collaboration with the Petersburg Healthy Options Partnership. Together they are working toward a healthier Petersburg by providing residents with equitable options for a healthier lifestyle.
“The Crater Health District is working with locality leaders, organizations and community members to improve health outcomes for all people in our district,” said Alton Hart, Jr., MD, MPH, director, Crater Health District. “Many factors beyond medical care influence health. We look forward to using this year’s County Health Rankings data to focus on the unique needs of our area and build strategies towards meaningful change.”
For more information on the 2021 County Health Rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org. For more information on health resources throughout Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts.