Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

How can the Rankings continue to help local communities improve health for all?

Friday, April 29, 2016

As many of you know, the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program (CHR&R) can be a go-to source for local communities in raising awareness of the broad range of factors that matter to our health and driving change in these areas. But what you may not realize is that each year, state by state, the Rankings also draw attention to the meaningful gaps from the best to worst ranked counties in how long and how well residents live. The annual Rankings make the case for action to improve the opportunities for everyone’s good health, both for residents in our unhealthiest counties and for those who do not have a fair chance at achieving good health in counties that rank among the healthiest. In other words, CHR&R has a fundamental commitment to empowering local communities to close health gaps and advance health equity.

Together with the annual Rankings release, there are a number of ways in which CHR&R puts this commitment into action. These include:

  • Raising awareness of the differences across counties, states, and the nation in opportunities to be healthy and strategies to improve health for all through our Reports, including the Key Findings and Health Gaps Reports.
  • Providing national and state-level heat maps that quickly call attention not only to communities where residents are living long and well, but also to those that are lacking opportunities for residents to be healthy. 
  • Introducing measures that highlight gaps within counties, such as income inequality or residential segregation. Such measures offer a window into how opportunities for health can vary for county residents. Even in a relatively healthy county, these measures can demonstrate that there is work to be done.
  • Developing guidance for communities interested in going beyond their county snapshot to unmask differences in health opportunities and outcomes between neighborhoods. Our website offers guides on Using the Rankings Data and Digging Deeper into local sources. We are also working with two states to explore access to data for smaller geographies and for population subgroups.
  • Providing communities with tools and assistance to address health gaps through the Roadmaps to Health Action Center, including Community Coaching that provides practical help for communities working to improve health for all, and guidance on Working Together to make meaningful change
  • Offering an assessment of the potential impact of a policy or program on health disparities in our evidence-based What Works for Health inventory.

Across the nation, we have seen many examples of how communities, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize winners, are advancing health equity and tapping into CHR&R to accelerate positive change. But, we have work to do! We aim to support local communities making meaningful change in ways that everyone, especially those who have not had the opportunities others have benefited from, can have a voice and a role in creating and implementing solutions. For CHR&R to be successful in closing health gaps means that local communities must have the data, tools, strategies, and partnerships they need to improve health for all. We encourage you to join with us in taking action to change the opportunity trajectory so that everyone has a fair chance to be their healthiest. Send us your thoughts on the types of data, tools, and strategies that you need to advance health equity and share what is working to close gaps in your community.