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Summit County healthy, but uninsured

Snowshoers kick up snow at the start of the Swift Skedaddle Snowshoe Adventure 5k and 10k race Saturday at the Raven at Three Peaks Golf Course and Nordic Center.
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After being ranked the fourth most active county in Colorado, it should come as no surprise Summit County was also recently named the fifth healthiest in the state. Summit came in behind the counties of Boulder, Pitkin, Eagle and Douglas, which ranked first.

The study – County Health Rankings – was a collaboration between The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and reported the rankings of counties in every state. In Colorado, 57 counties were studied. Cheyenne, Dolores, Hinsdale, Jackson, Kiowa, Mineral and San Juan counties were not ranked due to insufficient data.

Results were tallied according to a variety of health measures, broken up into three categories: health outcomes (mortality and morbidity); health factors ( health behaviors, clinical care, social and economical factors, and physical environment); and programs and policies. Sub-categories included: tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use, access and quality of clinical care, education, income and environmental quality. In Summit County, smoking, obesity, unemployment and preventable hospital stays were below state average, while the percentage of uninsured adults, low birth weight and motor vehicle crash death rate were higher.



Deb Crook, director of the Summit County Public Health Department, said she’s not surprised to see Summit’s high ranking, although some of the data used to calculate results needs to be taken apart.

“We’re a very healthy community generally,” said Crook. “Some of the information they use is sometimes information that’s gotten in an aggregate way. Some of these indicators they’re using are fairly straightforward without knowing what’s behind some of those issues.”



For example, Crook said Summit’s morbidity (poor health) rating – which came in at 24 out of 57 – is probably due to the county’s high percentage of live births with low birth weight.

“If you look at the counties that typically have low birth weight, they have a tendency to be the high altitude counties,” she said.

Crook said Summit’s rating of 17 percent of adults without adequate social and emotional support – 3 percent higher than the national benchmark but the same as Colorado’s – was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which tends to lump smaller counties together.

“It is a random phone survey,” Crook said. “In Colorado, the big counties like Denver have their own survey. In the smaller counties, they put together calls to make a statistical statement that’s significant.”

Crook said Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties were probably part of Summit’s social support results.

Another number higher than both the state and national rankings was the percentage of adults under the age of 65 without health insurance. Summit County has 30 percent, while the state of Colorado only has 20 percent. The report said the national benchmark is 13 percent. Crook said Summit County’s uninsured – which was a subcategory that helped rank clinical care – is probably what placed Summit 13th.

“I don’t think we have too many issues with clinical care,” Crook said.

Instead, Crook said the percentage of uninsured points to the need for low-income health care providers, like the Summit Community Care Clinic.

“That gives you an idea that, yes, this is a reasonable thing to do in our county,” Crook said.

Joanna Rybak, community prevention coordinator at the Summit Prevention Alliance, said she was disappointed to see Summit County was listed as having 100 percent access to healthy food. She said this number should reflect the amount of affordable healthy food available to the population.

“We know for a fact there isn’t 100 percent affordable food access in Summit County,” she said.

Crook said Summit’s resort status contributes to both good and bad factors within the study. She said opportunities to drink are probably higher than other counties.

“Summit County is a resort area, and we have areas that make us look less healthy than others based on that,” she said. “The other good thing about living in a resort area is that there’s lots of activities to be outside and physically active, so those are some of the positive things we get credit for”


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