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Health issues consistent in Pierce in 2016 County Health Rankings

March 16, 2016

At 24 of 39 counties, no surprises concerning well-known, long-term health concerns

Persistent health problems are cause for comprehensive solutions. New Health Equity Report provides clear information to support significant work ahead to improve health for all.

TACOMA, Wash. – At a rank of 24 out of 39 counties in the state, Pierce County saw little change in its 2016 County Health Rankings over last year. This year’s just released ranking confirms the now familiar story of the area’s long-standing health challenges.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers the annual health report, which explores how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive. While Pierce County hasn’t seen any dramatic improvement in overall health rankings in this or similar reports, the community has enhanced its focus on collaborative efforts to tackle health challenges.

What the data tells us
The recent release of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Health Equity Report provides critical information about how various socio-economic factors influence health. It offers a response to many of the “why” questions the County Health Rankings may provoke.

“In Pierce County, we have eight years difference in life expectancy in neighborhoods that are only a mile apart,” said Director Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “This is powerful information about unacceptable disparities. And this type of insight helps us work smarter to ensure everyone gets a fair chance at good health,” he said.

In the 2016 County Health Rankings, Pierce County fared worse than the state in the following health areas, which are similar to past years and strike a familiar theme:

  • Premature deaths
  • Smoking among adults
  • Teen births
  • Preventable hospital stays
  • Diabetic monitoring
  • Mammography screening
  • Severe housing problems
  • Driving alone to work

The recent Health Equity Report is a resource for county leaders, community partners, and anyone who is concerned about our area’s health. Find the full report, along with a summary version, more than 60 maps of various health indicators, and a one-page infograph at It’s one of three efforts Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has launched to address our area’s health concerns:

Health Equity—The goal of the Health Department’s Health Equity effort is to remove barriers to good health so that everyone has equal opportunities to be healthy, wherever they live, learn, work or play. The 2015 Health Equity Report explores the connection between income, education, neighborhood, race and other social factors on a person’s health. Social, economic and environmental factors comprise 55 percent of what makes us healthy, while health behaviors, clinical care, and genetics make up the remaining 45 percent.

CHIP—Released in 2014, Pierce County’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) is a long-term collaborative strategy to address major community health problems. Completed in partnership with CHI Franciscan Health, MultiCare Health System, Group Health and University of Washington-Tacoma, it provides valuable information on top health priorities in order to address them as effectively as possible. Community partners can use the information for their strategic planning, budget preparation, collaboration, grant writing and other efforts.

Health System Transformation—Encompassing the work of a diverse group of partners to change residents’ health and health care experience, the Health Department’s Health System Transformation work recently received Washington State Department of Health designation as the backbone organization for Pierce County’s Accountable Community of Health. Pierce County Health Innovation Partnership leads the effort.

“We know we have a long way to go in Pierce County to ensure that all of our residents can experience good health outcomes, regardless of where they live, learn, work or play,” said Chen. “Improving on our community’s health—and the root causes of our health disparities—takes all of us working together,” he said.

The County Health Rankings measure the health of nearly every county in the nation. Published online at, the rankings help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live. The rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births. The rankings are unique in their ability to measure the overall health of each county in all 50 states. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care in the United States. Learn more at

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at

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