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Carroll County ranked fourth in Maryland county health rankings for 2019

Carroll County ranked fourth in Maryland county health rankings for 2019
Carol Ann Bauman of Westminster writes on a chalkboard installed in the food court of TownMall of Westminster by the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County in 2016. Carroll ranks fourth overall among Maryland counties in health rankings officially released today. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Carroll County slipped a spot, from third, to fourth overall among Maryland counties in the annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute health rankings, released Tuesday, but did see improvement in specific areas.

Carroll was overtaken by Frederick County, which had come in fifth in 2018. Montgomery County came in first, followed by Howard County, the same ranking they were given in 2018. St. Mary’s County came in fifth place in the 2019 rankings.

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“It’s not necessarily that our county’s going down, it could be that another county is improving,” said Dorothy Fox, executive director for The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County.

The overall health outcome rankings are based upon subsets of various health-related measures, from health behaviors such as smoking rates (13 percent of people in Carroll), number of driving deaths linked to alcohol (24 percent but trending down), to socioeconomic factors like high school graduation rates (98 percent) and children living in poverty (6 percent with a slight trend downward).

Areas that saw improvement in Carroll County and drew the attention of The Partnership, according to Fox, were length of life, clinical care and physical environment measures.

An example of how other the performance of other jurisdictions can affect the ranking, Carroll County was ranked sixth in the state in the 2018 rankings for premature deaths, with 5,900 “years of potential life lost” due to deaths before the age of 75. In the 2019 rankings, Carroll was ranked fourth in this measure despite a slight increase to 6,300 years of potential life lost.

Carroll was also ranked second in the state on social and economic factors, with a low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent and a violent crime rate of 188 incidents per 100,000, trending downward.

“We’ve always ranked pretty well there. So they are pretty consistent and the other numbers are really consistent, too,” Fox said. “I don’t feel like there is a lot of change this year.”

But that doesn’t mean there are not good trends growing in the right direction, she said, noting positive trends under the clinical care subcategory, including a low and dropping uninsured rate (4 percent), a statistically flat trend in unnecessary hospital stays at 3,991 in the most recent year for which there was data, 2016, and a new measure, the flu vaccination rate (54 percent).

“With the improvements we are seeing, we are really seeing it from the clinical care perspective,” Fox said. “I really see that under clinical care and would credit to our partners in our community. That would mostly be the hospital.”

The Partnership conducts its own biannual health needs assessment, surveying people in Carroll about what they see as their largest health needs. In a media release, Fox is quoted as saying the health rankings report helps identify other areas where the health of everyone can improve.

“The Rankings report shows us where we are doing well, and areas where we need to do better,” she said. “We must all keep working to maintain Carroll’s status as one of the healthiest communities in Maryland.”

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