Williamson County is one of the healthiest counties in Texas, according to a national study of county health rankings.
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its 7th annual list of county health rankings March 16. Williamson County ranked No.3 out of 241 reporting counties in the state.
“We are very pleased that we remained … the third healthiest county in Texas,” said John Teel, director of Williamson County and Cities Health District.
Travis County also broke the top 10 at ninth healthiest county in the state.
Both counties had the same rankings in 2015. In 2014, Williamson County ranked No.2 in the state, and Travis County came in 8th.
Among the 30 factors that impact a county’s rank are education, jobs, housing, exercise, smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen births.
“The regional economy has a lot to do with how healthy we are as people,” Teel said.
Williamson County has a high median income and high instance of jobs with benefits, which leads its population to have access to quality health care, he said. Many Williamson County residents are well educated and choose healthy eating habits and active lifestyles with no tobacco, Teel said.
Teel also said governmental bodies in Williamson County spend time and money to establish healthy features for residents, including parks, walking trails, bicycle paths and recreation centers.
“I want to tip my hat to the Commissioners Court of Williamson County and the seven cities [in the health district] for the effort they put in,” he said.
Both Teel and Shannon Jones, director of Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, noted that while both counties celebrate their rankings, they are also focused on making improvements to population health.
“A large portion of our population does the right things to maintain health. However, we continue to address health inequities and conditions with the support of city leadership and community partners in order to expand the opportunity for all to be healthy,” Jones said in a news release.
According to the A/TCHHS, about half of the population of Travis County is overweight or obese, more than 90,000 residents have diabetes and 785 residents die because of a tobacco-related illnesses every year.
Similarly, 40,000 adults in Williamson County are smokers, one in three residents are obese and 90,000 residents have no health insurance or primary care physician, Teel said.
WCCHD offers several programs aimed at improving the health of its population, including Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Movin’—a school-based program to improve physical activity and nutrition among students; Let’s Cook with Colors—a free cooking, nutrition and gardening course for all ages; and the Texercise program, which helps older residents maintain physical activity and good nutrition, Teel said.
Residents can also contact the WCCHD for help with tobacco cessation, he said.
“Though we are tickled to death to be in the top 2 percent of the healthiest counties in Texas, we’re going to take all the actions we can to make our population healthier,” Teel said.
A/TCHHS also offers several free and low-cost health services, including diabetes education and prevention classes, tobacco cessation programs and the Austin Healthy Adolescent Program, which supports youth in Travis County taking responsibility for their health.
Nationwide county health ranking results are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.