Broadening Your View

Additionally, many other measures of health factors and health outcomes exist that we do not include in the County Health Rankings, either because they are not available across the nation or because they are unreliable. We encourage you to think about what measures will be helpful to more completely understand the health of your community. Included below are some questions you may want to ask about your community.

Health Outcomes 

Health Outcomes are measures of how long and how well people live. To further understand health outcomes in your community, additional questions you may want to ask include:

Length of life (Mortality)

  • What are the leading causes of death in your community?
  • What causes of death contributed the most to the County Health Rankings measure of premature death (years of potential life lost under age 75)?

Quality of life (Morbidity)

  • What types of physical and mental diseases are the most common in your community? Which types of diseases are people being hospitalized for?
  • Are there any patterns in the characteristics of mothers of low-birth-weight babies (e.g. educational level, age, when they began prenatal care, race)?

Health Factors 

Health factors describe the numerous elements that contribute to how long and how well we live. These are the areas where you can make immediate changes that will ultimately affect your community’s Health Outcomes. To further understand the factors influencing health in your community, additional questions you may want to ask can be found on the following pages:

These questions can serve as a starting place in generating additional questions that will help you better understand the health of your community. We encourage you to work with others in your community to identify the questions that are most important and potential data sources that can help you find answers. Some questions can be answered by searching for data that has already been collected. The Finding More Data section of this guide links you to national and state data sources that may be helpful. Other questions may require you to collect data at the local level via surveys or interviews.

If you need more guidance about which measures might be useful, visit our Assess Needs and Resources Action Step or contact us. Remember, you know your community best, so don’t get buried in the mounds of data that exist. Improvements in community health happen when communities work together using many forms of data, including resident perspectives, to determine where it is most important to take action.