Princeton, N.J. and Madison, Wis.—The 2017 County Health Rankings released today show premature death rates are rising nationally because of an increase in deaths among 15-44 year-olds. From 2014 to 2015, 85 percent of the increase in premature deaths can be attributed to a swift increase in deaths among these younger Americans. The Rankings Key Findings Report reveals that while myriad issues contributed to the rise, the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year-olds and is a clear driver of this trend. Drug deaths are also accelerating among 15- to 24-year-olds, but nearly three times as many people in this age group die by homicide, suicide or in motor vehicle crashes.
The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI), compare counties within each state on more than 30 health-influencing factors such as education, jobs, and housing. Over the past eight years, the Rankings, which are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, have become an important vehicle for local communities building a Culture of Health. In addition to the Rankings data, the Roadmaps to Health Action Center and What Works for Health offer a rich collection of tools and evidence-informed strategies that can help communities develop solutions. The program also offers coaches who can provide customized assistance and guidance to local communities working to improve health.
“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face—whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic—so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”