Study: Eagle County residents live long, healthy lives |

Study: Eagle County residents live long, healthy lives

Lauren Glendenninglglendenning@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Eagle County, one of the most physically active counties in the United States, is now also ranked as Colorado’s second healthiest county.The County Health Rankings, a national project by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, claim to help counties understand what influences how healthy its residents are and how long they will live.Douglas, Eagle, Pitkin, Boulder and Summit counties make up the top five healthiest counties in Colorado.Eagle County residents, with all their skiing, biking, hiking and other physical activities, did well in the overall rankings for obvious reasons – the people who live here are generally very active, which is a direct correlation to overall health.The local population has fewer smokers and obese residents than national and state averages, however Eagle County residents tend to drink alcohol excessively, more so than national and state averages.The rankings measure various health behaviors such as exercise and alcohol use, social and economic factors such as income and employment, access to and quality of clinical care and the physical environment. The survey provides a nice illustration of how health is linked to environment, behavior, social and economic conditions, and income and education, said Rebecca Larson, an epidemiologist with the Eagle County Department of Public Health.”Health is everybody’s business and it takes public health, health care, education, human services, businesses and other private and public partners working together to promote and sustain a healthy community,” Larson said. Some of the factors used in the ranking were the rate of people dying before age 75 and the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health.

Sue Birch, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, said this particular report is very credible and it provides an inside look at how the state is doing.”We like to look at the report to get a sense of where there are voids in the state,” Birch said.A void in Eagle County, for example, is that it doesn’t have a Federally Qualified Health Center. The closest center is in Glenwood Springs, Birch said. “That makes a big difference on access to care,” she said. Elizabeth Myers, executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center in Edwards, said she isn’t surprised that Eagle County’s excessive drinking ranked highly, but she said she would like the study to include things like suicide rates, which are high in Eagle County, and cancer rates.Some of the area where Eagle County could afford to improve, such as teen birth rates, excessive drinking and uninsured adults, for example, have been identified by the community already as priority areas that need improvement, Larson said. Programs and policies available to the population are also factored into the rankings. Programs and policies can focus on factors such as ensuring that children are immunized at appropriate times, changing individuals’ diet and exercise behaviors, encouraging college attendance or stimulating economic development. Eagle County has youth development programs, family planning services, employee education and training for alcohol establishments, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing and access to care initiatives, Larson said. “Our overall high ranking reflects the priority our community has placed on influencing the factors that affect residents’ health, and it also shows how important it will be for us to sustain those efforts to remain healthy,” Larson said. Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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