County Health Rankings & Roadmaps 2012: Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peek with Bridget Booske Catlin

Mar 12, 2012, 5:19 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

file Bridget Booske Catlin, Director, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps

The third release of County Health Rankings data will occur April 3. This collection of 50 reports—one per state—helps community leaders see that where we live, learn, work and play influences how healthy we are and how long we live. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to develop these Rankings, to provide a standard way for counties to see where they are doing well and where they are not so they can make changes to improve community health. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Bridget Booske Catlin, PhD, MHSA, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Director about the upcoming Rankings release.

>>Leading up to the launch of the 2012 County Health Rankings on April 3, NewPublicHealth will be running a series of posts and Q&As to explore what's new for the Rankings and how local communities are using them.

NewPublicHealth: What will be new this year when the County Health Rankings are released?

Bridget Booske Catlin: There will be several new and exciting additions for this year’s launch. We will be showcasing a brand new interactive mapping feature that will make access to the Rankings data much easier. We have also added a couple of new features. However, the most exciting aspect of this year’s launch is the introduction of our new project in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: the County Health Roadmaps project, which includes several elements:

  • grants to local coalitions;
  • partnerships among policymakers, business, education, public health, health care and community organizations;
  • grants to national organizations working to improve health;
  • recognition of communities whose promising efforts have led to better health; and
  • customized technical assistance on strategies to improve health.

NPH: What are you working on to engage communities in improving their rankings?

Bridget Booske Catlin: The County Health Roadmaps project is designed to help communities move from the Rankings data to action to improve health in communities across the nation.

One component of the new Roadmaps project is the Roadmaps to Health Community Grants. In October 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced grants to twelve communities to support work in implementing policies to address social and economic factors, one of the key factors in the County Health Rankings model.

NPH: What else is in the pipeline for the County Health Roadmaps project?

Bridget Booske Catlin: The County Health Rankings illustrate what we know about what is making communities sick or healthy. The County Health Roadmaps show what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play.

On April 3 when we release the 2012 County Health Rankings, we will also be announcing an opportunity for communities to apply for Roadmaps to Health Prizes of $25,000 to up to six communities that are working to become healthier places. The Roadmaps to Health Prize is intended not only to honor successful efforts, but also to inspire and stimulate similar activities in other U.S. communities.

We will also be introducing the Roadmaps to Health Action Center to provide tools and information to help groups working to make their communities healthier places. The new Action Center will provide guidance on developing strategies and advocacy efforts to advance pro-health policies and will offer opportunities for ongoing learning. In addition, we will provide customized consultation to local communities who have demonstrated the willingness and capacity to address factors that we know influence how healthy a person is, such as education, income and family connectedness.

NPH: How were the Rankings measures chosen?

Bridget Booske Catlin: We chose our measures based on a number of factors, starting with the criteria that each measure must reflect important aspects of population health that can be improved and are available at the county level across the nation, as well as data that valid, reliable, recognized and used by others. We also select measures that are available from searchable databases for free or low cost and are as up-to-date as possible. Finally, we believe that, in general, fewer measures are better than more. We encourage communities to review the measures in their Rankings snapshot and then use our Data Drilldown Guide to find additional sources of data for particular areas of concern.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.