Summit County ranks eight in the state for health outcomes, report says |

Summit County ranks eight in the state for health outcomes, report says

Jack Queen
Summit County performed very well in both physical activity and access to exercise opportunities, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examining health outcomes. Overall, Summit ranked eighth in the state.
File photo |

Summit County earned high marks in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual report on health statistics, coming in eighth out of the 58 Colorado counties graded for health outcomes and ninth for health factors.

That puts Summit slightly behind the other ski country counties of Routt, Eagle and Pitkin but still well above average in the state for categories including length of life, access to care and health behaviors.

The report, released on March 29, ranked Summit second in the state for both premature death and social and economic factors; however the county’s overall score was dragged down by weaker showings in quality of life and physical environment, where it ranked 27 and 33, respectively.

Although a recent study found that Summit had the lowest cancer mortality rate of any county in the nation, malignant cancer was nonetheless found to be Summit’s leading cause of premature death — defined as deaths among people below the age of 75 — with an age-adjusted rate of 33.9 deaths per 100,000.

Heart disease was the second leading cause with a rate of 29.2, followed by unintentional injuries with 24.1 and suicide at 21 deaths per 100,000.

“Severe housing problems” were a drag on Summit in the physical environment category, although it performed well in other categories including air quality and commuting times. The report noted that 25 percent of households in the county experienced at least one of four problems including overcrowding, high costs and lack of kitchens or plumbing facilities.

Summit outperformed state averages in eight of the nine metrics used to gauge social and economic well being, falling short only in the number of social associations per 100,000 people.

High school graduation rates in Summit were particularly high at 94 percent, compared with the state average of 77 percent. Violent crime and injury death rates were also well below the Colorado averages.

Although Summit ranked 15th for health behaviors overall, it performed well in the area of physical activity and access to exercise opportunities; the report notes that only eight percent of people age 20 or older reported engaging in no leisure-time physical activity, and 100 percent of the population was deemed to have adequate access to exercise locations.

Summit is also one of the thinnest counties in the nation’s thinnest state, with an obesity rate of only 13 percent. The overall Colorado rate is around 20 percent, while roughly 38 percent of the country as a whole is considered obese.

Less healthy, however, were the county’s excessive drinking habits, which at 24 percent tied with neighboring Eagle County for the highest rate of binge drinking in the state.

Heavy drinkers account for the most episodes of drunk driving, the report notes, although Summit’s rate of alcohol-impaired driving is slightly below the state average.

From 2011 to 2015, there were 18 fatal traffic accidents in Summit and 33 percent of those involved alcohol, slightly below the state rate of 35 percent. The report cautions, however, that small sample sizes for this measure may skew results.

Access to mental health providers in Summit was below the state average with a 440:1 ratio of population to mental health providers. That was still better than neighboring Eagle, however, which had a 730:1 ratio and far better than Clear Creek, with 2,330 people per mental health provider.

Summit’s ratio of population to primary care physicians was slightly better than the state average, with 1,230 people for every doctor.

Both of those provider ratio metrics are included in the clinical care category, where Summit ranked 10th overall in the state. That was given a boost by what the report indicates was an above-average improvement in Summit’s uninsured rate from 2013 to 2014, when it declined from 21 percent to 13.

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