In the immortal words of Sally O'Malley, Central Texans like to "Stretch! Kick! And stretch!" Well actually, we like to do a lot more than just stretch and kick. On March 14, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the 2018 County Health Rankings Report, which chronicles the health of U.S. residents by county.
In 2018, the Austin area continued our sprint towards the top of the list of the healthiest counties in Texas. Ranking among the top 15 out of a total of 242 counties are Williamson (No. 2), Travis (No. 8), and Hays (No. 14). According to the report, the state's healthiest county is Denton in North Texas, while its least healthy is Duval, which sits about 120 miles south of San Antonio.
Though Travis County is still in the top 10, this year's ranking dipped slightly from 2017 when it came in at No. 5. Williamson, however, saw an uptick this year, rising from the No. 4 spot in 2017.
To determine the health of residents, UW and the RWJF examined myriad factors, but focused primarily on four key things:
- Health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity)
- Clinical care (access and quality of care)
- Social and economic factors (education, employment, income, family and social support, community safety)
- Physical environment (air and water quality, access to housing and transit)
“Health is more than what happens at the doctor’s office,” said Stephanie Hayden, interim director of Austin Public Health, in a release. “There are a wide range of factors that influence how long and how well we live including education and income, what we eat, and how we move, as well as the quality of our housing and the safety of our neighborhoods.”
Other Austin-area counties cracking the top 50 are Blanco (49) and Burnet (34). Our neighbors in Bastrop and Caldwell counties don't fare as well, coming in at 80 and 130, respectively.