Douglas County moved up three spots in the annual Oregon County Health Rankings released Tuesday.
County public health officials said that move is encouraging, but the county still has a lot of room for improvement.
“The good news is that we’ve moved up from 32 last year, to 29, but still not great,” said Douglas Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer.
The rankings look at more than 30 factors — including education, housing, jobs, transportation, access to medical care, and more — that influence how long and how well people live. This year’s report takes a closer look at the connection between health and housing.
Douglas County was 34th out of 35 counties in length of life — next to last. The county’s obesity rate was 5 percent above the state average at 33 percent.
“We still have a lot of people that are smoking, but the rate is at 16 percent, which is right at the state rate, and we were in the 20s a few years ago,” Dannenhoffer said. “But other than that, there were no big surprises.”
About 21 percent of people reported being inactive, compared to about 15 percent for the state.
Teen births have been high in the county for the past two years, but improved slightly from 34 births per 1,000 last year to 33 births per 1,000 this year.
The rankings indicated high housing costs can force some families to live in unsafe or overcrowded housing and even force them into homelessness.
This year’s figures show stark differences in the opportunity to afford a home within the county, especially for those with low incomes.
The analyses show a lack of opportunity for a safe, secure, and affordable home is tied to poor health. Dannenhoffer said 23 percent of the county’s children are living in poverty.
Among Oregon’s children living in poverty, 51 percent were reported to be living in a household that spends more than half of its income on housing. High housing costs make it difficult for families to afford other essentials that contribute to good health, such as healthy food, medicine, or transportation to work or school.
“Housing is an enormous issue including in places that are otherwise thriving,” Dannenhoffer said.
Douglas County ranked 14th in clinical care; 22nd in health behaviors; 26th in health factors; 27th in socio-economic factors; and 28th in physical environment.
The top five healthiest counties in Oregon in this year’s rankings included Washington, Benton, Hood River, Clackamas and Deschutes.
The worst were Klamath, Jefferson, Josephine, Malheur, Lincoln and Coos.
Wheeler County was the only county to not be included in the report.
The rankings are a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The full report on county health rankings is available at www.countyhealthrankings.org