How Healthy is Your Community?

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual County Health Rankings report shows how where we live, learn, work, and play impacts our health. As a Family Physician, you witness every day the variety of factors that influence your patients’ health.  

Now in its ninth year, the annual national, state, and county-by-county analysis, conducted by RWJF in collaboration with University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, explores the interplay between how long and how well we live and:

  • health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity);
  • clinical care (access to care, quality of care);
  • social and economic factors (education, employment, income, family and social support, community safety); and
  • the physical environment (air and water quality, housing, transit).

The report also identifies where action is needed to achieve health equity and offers information on what communities can do to create opportunity and health for all residents.

Statewide, the 2019 rankings show that, in 2017, 20% of Michigan’s children lived in poverty; of those, 48% lived in a household that spends more than half of its income on housing costs. This is significant, as it means these households have little left to pay for other essentials like healthy food and medical care.

The report also shows that in Michigan’s healthiest county, Leelanau (located near Traverse City), 4,700 residents per 100,000 died prematurely. Comparatively, 12,200 per 100,000 residents living in the state’s least healthy county, Crawford (located in central northern Michigan), died before age 75.

What’s more, 17% of Michigan’s adult residents reported fair or poor health in 2017, compared to 16% across the U.S., and values for measures of length and quality of life for Native American, Black, and Hispanic residents are regularly worse than for White and Asian residents. For example, even in the healthiest counties, Black and American Indian premature death rates are about 1.4 times higher than White rates.

When it comes to clinical care, Michigan fares better (6%) than the U.S. (10%) in terms of percentage of the population under age 65 that lacks health insurance. Michigan’s ratio of population to primary care physicians (1,260:1) is also better than that of the U.S. (1,330:1).

To learn about your own county’s rankings and what is needed to move the needle on improving health, visit