Ranking the Health of Nevada's Counties
A new study by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has ranked each county in each state by health markers.
But these markers aren’t just about how many doctors we have, or the rate of sexually transmitted disease (both of which are problems in Clark County). The study also takes into account factors like educational attainment and your housing situation, as well as whether you smoke or drink or exercise.
In fact, a stunning map of Clark County shows about a 15 year life expectancy difference from the poorer zip codes in Las Vegas to the more affluent ones.
If you live in Anthem, you are likely to live till your late-80s. If you live near the Boulevard Mall, you are likely to die in your early 70s.
John Packham is the Director of Health Policy Research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.
He told KNPR's State of Nevada that were you live has a bigger impact on your health than your genetics. The reasons for that are varied.
Packham said everything from unsafe and unhealthy housing, restaurants that offer healthy food, markets with fresh produce to places to exercise or safely walk outside impact the numbers.
“The recent [data] that were posted and produced for Las Vegas... they’re striking," he said, "I’ve never seen those disparities in double digits for a metropolitan area”
He said he believes that as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen so will health problems.
Another important factor is education. Packham said on average more time spent in school translates to a longer life span.
The county with best ranking for health is Douglas County and the worst is Nye County. Packham says those two counties are an example of the disparities between healthy neighborhoods and unhealthy neighborhoods.
“You have in general in Douglas versus Nye, you have a slightly older but more affluent population compared to Nye County,” he said.
For example, Douglas County is better at providing preventative health care for disease like diabetes and breast cancer. It also provides better access to primary care physicians, dentists and mental health care. It also has half the child poverty rate of Nye County.
“All of these are implicated in health and demand the attention of program and policy well beyond health care," Packham said.
He said addressing smoking and improving high school graduation rates would go a long way to improving health rankings around the state.
John Packham, Director of Health Policy Research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine