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Snohomish County ranked among healthiest in Washington

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – After dropping to seventh in 2020, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has named Snohomish County the sixth healthiest county in Washington for their 2021 County Health Rankings

The annual rankings were released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The rankings are intended to be a snapshot of multiple factors that impact health—like clinical care, health behaviors, social and economic factors, and physical environment—compared to other counties in the state and nation. 

According to the 2021 rankings, the healthiest counties in Washington are San Juan, King, Whitman, Island, Douglas and Snohomish counties. San Juan and King counties have been the top two healthiest counties in the state since 2016. Snohomish’s best placement in recent years was third in 2018 and 2019.

Snohomish continues to be a top performer in the state and country for some health-based behaviors, such as:

  • Teen births. Snohomish County had a rate of 12 teen births for every 1,000 teen females, compared to the state’s rate of 16 per 1,000.
  • Low birthweight. At a rate of six percent, Snohomish County is amongst the top performers in the country for rates of low birthweight.
  • Adult smoking. There were 13 percent of adults who are current smokers in Snohomish County, compared to 12 percent in the state and 16 percent nationwide.  

The rankings make it clear that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care such as social and economic factors. One of the measures Snohomish County excels at compared to others is children in poverty. Snohomish and King tied for lowest rates in the state at eight percent of people under 18 living below the poverty level. Poverty at any age is tied to many poor health outcomes from causes later in life, including heart attack, stroke, and lung cancer. Snohomish also showed strength in lower income inequality when compared to the state. 

A new measure for 2021 was around broadband access. While it doesn’t impact the health ranking, Snohomish County is a top performer in the nation with 91 percent of households with internet. This is also higher than the state rate of 88 percent.

Unfortunately, the county continues to lag behind others in some measures access to healthcare. Top counties in the state have a ratio of one physician for every 1,180 residents, while Snohomish has a ratio of one provider for every 1,930 residents. However, it is important to note that this measure only included doctors of medicine or osteopathic medicine but did not include advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNP) or physician assistants, both of which play a key and expanding role in our healthcare system. Ratios for residents per dentists and mental health providers were also behind top state and U.S. performers. 

Other areas for improvement include:

  • Long commutes. Nearly half (48 percent) of workers in the county drive alone for at least 30 minutes to get to work every day. Longer commutes have been associated with higher blood pressure and body mass index, as well as an increased risk of obesity and poor mental health outcomes. Snohomish is tied at third worst in the state for long commutes, while top state performers report less than 16% of workers with long commutes. 
  • Drug overdose deaths. While not a measure that impacted the overall ranking, Snohomish County fared more poorly than the state in the rate of drug overdose deaths through 2019 (20 per 100,000 compared to state rate of 16 per 100,000).
  • Alcohol-impaired driving deaths. From 2015-2019, 29 percent of driving deaths involved alcohol. While lower than the state’s 33 percent, it is quite a bit higher than 11 percent in the nation’s top performers.

“The County Health Rankings are a useful snapshot of comparable health indicators, and we’re glad to see that Snohomish County has improved since the previous report,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “While these rankings do not include impacts from COVID, they also don’t include recent initiatives focused on improving transit options, health disparities, climate change, and more. Investments in communities matter because they have a direct impact on health outcomes.”

The rankings are based on data from 2015-2019, which means no measures were impacted by COVID-19. The measures can be explored further at www.countyhealthrankings.org, including measures that do not impact scoring but still show a snapshot of the county.

To learn more about the rankings or see detailed information on the health indicators, go to www.countyhealthrankings.org.

The Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. To read more about the District and for important health information, visit www.snohd.org.

By Snohomish Health District | Press Release

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