KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- Out of 35 counties in Oregon, Klamath Falls is ranked last. Josephine is ranked 3rd from last. And in California, Siskiyou County is 57 out of 58.
- Jackson: 16 (out of 35)
- Josephine: 33 (out of 35)
- Curry: 28 (out of 35)
- Klamath: 35 (out of 35)
- Lake: 26 (out of 35)
- Siskiyou: 57 (out of 58)
The overall rankings in health outcomes represent how healthy counties are within the state. The healthiest county in the state is ranked #1. It's Washington County. Wheeler County was left out of the rankings because the population is too low.
The ranks are based on two types of measures: how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps annual report was just released today. It breaks down counties for each state across the U.S.
The Foundation is the same agency that named Klamath County one of four Cultural of Health Prize winners in 2018.
Since 2011 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to provide state and county-level snapshots of a variety of factors influencing the lives of Americans. Klamath County has improved in a number of areas this year, but there is still work to be done, according to the public health director.
“Although we remained at the bottom for health outcomes, we moved up three places for health factors. I’m pleased to see positive improvement in several of the subcategories that contribute to that score,” said Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health.
A factor to consider in evaluating the 2019 County Health Rankings is the age of the data being analyzed. In some areas, such as low birth weight and teen births, statistics from 2011 to 2017 were evaluated to reach a value for the current rankings. It will be several years before a more accurate picture can develop. The most current data used in any ranking component is from 2017.
“When the data catches up to the current work being done across the county, by local agencies, I expect to see significant improvement in rankings over the next few years,” Little said. “It’s also important to note that our local community health assessment is out for community review and a community health improvement plan survey is currently underway. KCPH continually works with our partner agencies to know what is occurring throughout the county.”
Health outcomes include length of life and quality of life. Klamath ranked 33 for length of life and improved from 36 to 33 for quality of life. Length is influenced by the number of premature deaths, which are defined as a death occurring before someone reaches the age 75. Quality includes the percentage of residents reporting poor or fair health, the number of reported poor physical health days, the number of poor mental health days, and the percentage of infants with low birthweight.
Health factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment.
Klamath ranked 31 in health behaviors, which take into consideration factors such as adult smoking, adult obesity, food environment index, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted infections, and teen births. Adult obesity increased from 31 to 32 percent, with the current rate drawn from 2015 data. Teen births, numbering 37, were nearly double the Oregon rate of 20.
Clinical care improved to 18 from 23. Uninsured adults were 11 percent of the population, up from 10 percent. The ratio of patients to primary care physicians improved to 1,100:1 from 1,160:1. Access to dentists also improved, moving from 1,300:1 to 1,200:1. Mental health provision improved from 250:1 to 230:1. Mammography screening fell from 37 percent from 61.
Social and economic factors fell from 29 to 31. These indicators include high school graduation rate, residents having attended some college, unemployment, children living in poverty, inadequate social support, income inequality, children living in single-parent households, number of social associations, violent crime rate, and injury deaths.
Klamath County’s physical environment remained ranked at 16. This measure reflects air and water quality data, along with severe housing problems, driving alone to work and a long commute to work driven alone. Severe housing problems are defined as households with overcrowding, high housing costs, or lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities.
“There’s a lot of great work happening in the community and we are beginning to see it in the numbers. Everyone is doing their part, and if we keep this up I predict we will see our numbers continue to improve over the years. Remember, change takes time,” Little said.