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Study: Rural Arizona Counties Have Poorer Health Than Cities

(Photo by graphicstock.com)

More than 1,500 deaths could be avoided each year if all Arizonans had the same opportunities for maintaining their health, a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin reported Wednesday.

The top five healthiest counties in the state are Maricopa, Yuma, Pinal, Pima and Santa Cruz. Cochise ranks ninth, and Apache County is at the bottom of the list for 2016. Rural counties have the worst outcomes.

That’s not a surprise to health study researcher Kate Konkle of the University of Wisconsin, who called it a national trend.

"One in five rural counties have experienced rising premature death rates, so people dying too young over the past decade and at the same time large urban counties have actually been improving,” Konkle said.

The factors influencing health vary county by county, she said.

“Rural counties do have higher rates of smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen birth rates. These are significant areas when we think about health and significant challenges for counties that are often under resourced.”

Konkle said the report’s authors hope communities will use the data to come up with ways to improve health outcomes locally.

She said access to health care is just one way to improve health. Other influences are education and income, community safety, housing and transportation.

More information is in the County Health Rankings report.

Arizona Health Rankings: How Does Your County Rate?

Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.