Carroll County News

Carroll ranked fourth healthiest county in Maryland

Carroll County is the now the fourth healthiest county in Maryland. That's according to new 2015 County Health Rankings out Wednesday March 25, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

After measuring factors such as the number of premature deaths, adult smoking rate, and the percentage of children living in poverty, the rankings placed Carroll fourth behind Frederick, Howard and Montgomery Counties in health outcomes. Allegany, Cecil, Caroline Counties and Baltimore City, which was dead last, made up the bottom five counties.


The new rankings reflect a promotion for Carroll, which in 2014 was ranked fifth behind Queen Anne's, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery Counties.

People can compare measures between counties, the data sources for the measures and even explore rankings in other states by going to


The rankings represent the combined assessment of many factors combined in a two score system, according to Kate Konkle, an associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

"Each county gets two different overall ranks: Health Outcomes, a picture of today's health, and Health Factors, which we think of as a picture of tomorrow's health," she said. "Sometimes they look the same and sometimes they look different."

Carroll was ranked fourth both on Health Outcomes and Health Factors, and Frederick was likewise third in both categories, but Montgomery and Howard Counties swapped places when it came to Health Factors, with Montgomery in second and Howard in first.

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Health Outcomes included measures such as the number of premature deaths and the percentage of children born with low birth weights. Carroll improved in both these measures since the 2014 rankings, seeing 5,360 premature deaths compared with 5,765 in the 2014 report, and a low birth weight rate of 6.6 percent, compared with 6.9 percent previously.

Health Factors includes many more measures across more categories, including everything from behaviors that directly affect health like the adult smoking rate — 18 percent in Carroll, compared with 8 percent in Howard and Montgomery — to socioeconomic factors such as high school graduation rates and the percentage of children living in poverty. Carroll graduation rates inched up to 95 percent from the previous 93 percent, while the percentage of children living in poverty, 8 percent, remained flat.

Not all of the measures are based on data from the same time period, according to Konkle. Adult smoking figures, for example, are drawn from a behavioral survey conducted between 2006 and 2012.

"A challenge with population level data is that there is always a lag. It has to be collected, cleaned and sent back out, but it is the most current data available," Konkle said. "It just depends on the data source and how it is collected."

The idea behind conducting the county rankings is not to present a perfect window into the health of any given community, according to Konkle, but to present a snapshot of public health that can serve as benchmark and measure for progress.


"The data is a great starting point, but it's not the whole story," she said. "We hope people will visit and look at the snapshots and see how they can go about making their communities a healthier place for everyone."

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or