Report highlights health gaps among W.Va. counties

Staff Report

PRINCETON, N.J. and MADISON, Wis. — There are substantial health differences among West Virginia counties, and eliminating those differences could prevent over 1,900 premature deaths every year, according to a new report released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI).

The report also looked at a total of 30 important factors that contribute to how long and how well people live, and found that in West Virginia opportunities for health vary widely from county to county.

If every county in West Virginia did as well as the counties in the state that performed best on these important health factors, there could be:

• 83,000 fewer adult smokers

• 42,000 fewer adults who are obese

• 44,000 fewer adults who drink excessively

• 31,000 fewer people who are uninsured

• 42,000 more adults, ages 25-44, with some education beyond high school

• 9,100 fewer people who are unemployed

• 18,000 fewer children in poverty

• 3,900 fewer violent crimes

• 22,000 fewer households with severe housing problems

“Everyone in our country, no matter where they live, should have a chance to be the healthiest they can be, and right now they don’t,” said James S. Marks, MD, MPH, RWJF executive vice president. “By highlighting the gaps and the opportunities for people to reach maximum health potential, state and community leaders can help build a Culture of Health for all.”

The report is one of 50 released Nov 11. Each identifies significant gaps in opportunities for good health among counties within every state.

Each state report details how well the healthiest counties do; the difference that could be made if every county had the same chance to be healthy; and strategies to close the gaps between the healthiest and least healthy places.

The full report for the state of West Virginia can be found at

“The differences in health that this report and the annual County Health Rankings identify are the result of systems, policies, and choices that consistently benefit some people over others,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, co-director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “Data from the County Health Rankings and tools in the Roadmaps to Health Action Center can aid states in their efforts to improve health.”

The West Virginia Health Gaps Report is a product of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program. The program offers data, tools, and resources to help communities throughout their journey to build a Culture of Health.

Staff Report

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