Explore Your Snapshot

The county snapshots provide tools to help make sense of county-level data. The snapshot data and these accompanying tools should be used to help understand what is happening in the community, what has happened over time, and for picking priorities and setting future goals.

Questions to explore

1) What's the big picture of health in your county?

The first step to understand more about what is happening in your county is to look at the data and see if anything is surprising to you.

  • Which quartile (Least Healthy, Lower middle range, Higher middle range, Healthiest) does your county's Health Outcome and Health Factor rank fall into?
    • Are the Health Outcome and Health Factor quartiles the same or different?
  • Are there any measures where the value is much higher or lower than expected? We have created the Areas of Strength and Areas to Explore tools to serve as a double-check of what you may have noticed in your snapshot.

2) How does your county compare to others?

  • Which of the measures in your county’s snapshot are better or worse than the state average?*
    • Among those measures that are better in your county, does the value for the state average sit outside of the margin of error for your county's measure?
  • Which of the measures in your county’s snapshot are better or worse than the Top US performers?
  • If you click on any measure you can see the distribution in your state on a map or a data table where you can easily sort by county or measure value within your state.
  • If you are interested in comparing two or more county snapshots side by side you can use the compare counties tool to compare to counties within or outside of your state.

3) How has your county changed over time?

The trend graphs included with many measures can be opened to see data as far back as 10+ years.

4) Does health or opportunity vary by race in your county?

After looking at your county data you might be asking if the values vary greatly among groups of individuals living in the county.

  • Where available, data by race/ethnicity are provided for measures.
  • In the measure pages or the digging deeper section you can see where you can go to find data that can be further broken down by race, age, gender, income, or subcounty area.

*Note: Most of our measures are framed so that a high value is worse than a low value but there are few measures where a high value is better: the food environment index, access to exercise opportunities, flu vaccinations, mammography screening, high school completion, some college, and social associations.

County snapshot content

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New quartile graphic

Above the county snapshot you will notice two graphics. These graphics divide the counties in the state into four equal groupings, called quartiles. Quartiles range from the least healthy to healthiest counties (Lowest 0-25%, Lower 25-50%, Higher 50-75%, or Highest 75-100%) in their state for both Health Outcomes and Health Factors. Healthier counties are displayed further right on the graphic.

We use these graphics to provide an indication of where your county fares relative to others in the state. We encourage users viewing a snapshot to focus on the data presented for each measure and to reference the quartiles for overall comparison across counties. In this way, comparison of the specific ranks, which may or may not be statistically significantly different from one another, can be avoided. 

County value

We report values for the 35 measures we use to calculate ranks and more additional measures. 

Note: Where possible, we provide our measures by race/ethnicity, which can be accessed by clicking the measure value if it appears blue and underlined.

Measures with an ⓘ to the left of the measure name contain additional information. For premature death the ⓘ identifies the 5 leading causes of death for your county. An can also indicate if data should not be compared with prior years    

Trends

We include trend graphs for 17 measures (click on the graph icon in the Trend column of your County Snapshot). The color of the line in the icon shows the direction of the measures in your county:

  • Red - Your county is getting worse for this measure
  • Yellow - Your county is staying the same for this measure
  • Green - Your county is getting better for this measure

You can find a lot more information on interpreting and using your trend graphs in our section, Understanding Trends Overtime. 

Error margins

Where possible, we provide the margins of error (95% confidence intervals) for our measure values. These should be interpreted as “we are 95% confident that the true value for the county lies between XX and YY.”

Top U.S. performers

For many Rankings measures, we have displayed the value for which only 10% of counties in the country are doing better, i.e., the 90th percentile or 10th percentile, depending on whether the measure is framed positively (e.g., high school graduation) or negatively (e.g., adult smoking).

A list of the Top Performer values is available. (Some measures are not comparable across states--a Top Performer value will not apply in these cases. Information on comparability of measures across states is available.)

State value

Each county's corresponding state values are included for comparison.

Race/ethnicity data For many measures, data are available by race/ethnicity within a county and where available, County Health Rankings provides data for American Indian & Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White population groups within a county. 
Areas to explore & areas of strength

You can click on the Areas to Explore and Areas of Strength buttons at the top of your County Snapshot to, respectively, highlight potential challenges your community may want to examine more closely, and factors that are assets in your community already.

Areas of Strength and Areas to Explore are calculated for ranked Health Factors measures to highlight where a significant improvement or decline will lead to a similar change in overall Health Factor Rank. Areas of Strength/Areas to Explore are intended to serve as a starting point for identifying areas of strength or improvement in your county.

We obtain Areas to Explore and Areas of Strength by comparing your county value to your state value and the national value (median of counties) for each ranked health factor measure. For measures where your county is doing meaningfully better than the state and national values, these are highlighted as Areas of Strength and for measures where your county is doing meaningfully worse than the state and national values, these measures are highlighted as Areas to Explore. Besides comparing your county to the state and national values, we also consider the weight of each measure for Health Factors, where measures with more weight are more likely to be considered an Area of Strength or Area to Explore. For two measures, Adult Obesity and Adult Smoking we use the value in the state with the lowest rate, since we believe these are measures are undesirably high across the country.

If you’d like more detailed information on how the Areas of Strength/Areas to Explore were selected for your particular county please use the ‘Contact Us’ button.

Compare counties with peer counties

You can compare measures for multiple counties across the country. Ranked or additional measures can be chosen and will appear side by side for selected counties. To find this feature, click on the Compare Counties tab from your County Snapshot. You can select counties within your state or from other states using the drop-down menu.

We are also excited about the Peer County tool built in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI). Peer counties matches for a county are identified using data on 19 key demographic, social, and economic indicators. See more detailed information on peer county methodology.

Measure information

If you click on a measure's name in a County Snapshot, you can see more information about that measure:

  • a summary of the measure, the years on which it is based, how the measure is incorporated into the Rankings, and overall statistics.
  • a map showing the spectrum of values among counties in a state. Counties with better values are colored a lighter shade of blue or green, while worse values are colored a darker shade.
  • the data values for all counties in the state allow you to see the actual values for the measure in each county in the state along with Z-scores and error margins (95% confidence intervals). To find the county with the best or worst value for that measure, you click on the arrows in the Z-score column header to sort the counties from best to worst (or worst to best).
  • a description of why we include this measure, important methodology notes , information on if the measure could be used to track progress and whether or not it is available for breakdown by race/ethnicity, gender, age, income, or other geography smaller than a county.
  • the data source.
  • policies and programs that are potential strategies to address the measure or the issue area it represents.