A national county-by-county health assessment has placed Pierce County in a familiar spot: 24th among the state’s 39 counties for the second year in a row.
Unlike neighbors King (No. 2) and Thurston (No. 7), Pierce’s ranking puts the state’s second-most-populous county — and the U.S. county with the highest increase in net domestic migration by a recent Census estimate — in a tier of health outcomes associated largely with Washington’s most rural places.
Among the state’s 10 most populous counties, only Spokane (No. 25) and Yakima (No. 33) had worse health outcomes.
The County Health Rankings survey, a joint effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, takes into account a variety of health and lifestyle factors. These include premature death, drug overdose and smoking as well as education, pollution and housing statistics.
The two agencies have surveyed health outcomes by county since 2010. In that time, Pierce County’s highest ranking in Washington was 21st, in 2015.
For 2017, the only two categories in which Pierce was found to have both improved and beaten state averages were high school graduation rates and access to exercise opportunities.
The county has fallen further behind state averages in measurements of adult obesity, sexually transmitted disease, diabetes and mammography testing, and child poverty rates. Pierce County ranked 36th of 39 in physical environment, a category that covers pollution, housing and commute times.
In a press release this week commenting on the rankings, Anthony L-T Chen, director of health for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said the county’s four-year improvement plan calls for attention to the social, economic and environmental disparities that have kept Pierce County’s health rankings low.
“We have a long way to go to ensure that all of our residents can experience good health outcomes, regardless of where they live, learn, work or play,” Chen said in the statement.