Summit County ranked ninth in health outcomes and sixth in health factors, report says |

Summit County ranked ninth in health outcomes and sixth in health factors, report says

A runner take part of the "Girls on the Run 5K" event Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 on the Recreational Path near Summit Middle School in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

Summit County has once again been ranked as one of the healthiest counties in the state, according to an annual report on county health by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Of Colorado’s 58 counties, Summit placed ninth in health outcomes and sixth in health factors, which are a respective drop (eighth in health outcomes last year) and gain (ninth in health factors) from last year’s ranking. The ranking uses 30 different statistical factors to give a snapshot of community health, including biological and behavioral health factors as well as socio-economic issues.

The report offers some interesting glimpses into life in Summit. For starters, the report ranks Summit second in “length of life,” based on total years lost due to premature death. Douglas County took the top spot for length of life, as it did for nearly every other health factor listed by the study.

However, quality of life dragged Summit’s health outcomes ranking down, ranking 13th with middling statistics for average number of poor physical and mental health days. Additionally, Summit has a higher than average percentage of babies born with low birth weight at 12 percent, compared to the Colorado average of 9 percent and 6 percent among the country’s top performers in that category.

When it comes to health factors, Summit remains atop the mountain. The county has a very low obesity rate of 15 percent compared to Colorado’s average of 21 percent and 26 percent among the country’s top performing counties. Only 10 percent of the county is considered “physically inactive” while 100 percent of the population has access to exercise opportunities. Summit also has top rankings in education, such as a 94 percent high school graduation rate, which is second in the state behind Pitkin with 98 percent.

On a less positive note, Summit has a higher than average excessive drinking rate, with 23 percent of adults reporting a binge or excessive drinking problem. That is fifth highest in the state, essentially tying with the sister mountain counties of Eagle, Pitkin and Routt.

Summit’s sky-high insurance rates mean that 12 percent, or more than one in 10 residents, don’t have any health insurance. Summit also has a relative shortage of doctors, with one primary physician available for every 1,320 residents.

When it comes to non-physician primary care providers, like nurse practitioners and clinical nurses, the statistic is even more staggering, with one non-physician provider for every 2,336 residents compared to the state average of 1 to 1067. The ratio is similarly low for mental health providers, with one available for every 400 residents compared to 330 statewide.

Housing, the county’s most persistent and growing headache, dings Summit in the rankings as well. Twenty-five percent of Summit households report having “severe housing problems,” which means one in four residents complains about having at least one of the four following housing issues: overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities.

The rankings are released every year as a means to get a snapshot of community health, and use a mix of public statistics and proprietary scientific weighting that give some factors more emphasis than others.

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