Travis, Williamson rank among healthiest counties in Texas

In March the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its 2015 County Health Rankings providing a snapshot of each U.S. county’s health.

In Central Texas, Travis and Williamson counties ranked high in 2015, coming in at ninth and third healthiest in Texas, respectively. Health officials use the ranking to find areas in which to improve, said Matt Richardson, division director for Planning and Strategic Initiatives at Williamson County and Cities Health District.

In Williamson County officials saw improved access to exercise opportunities and lower teen birth rates but want to reduce commute lengths, he said.

“The health behaviors and lifestyle kind of things, we had success in moving the needle on those,” he said.

WilCo produces a Community Health Assessment every three years to prioritize the community’s goals for health improvements. The CHA provides a detailed assessment of how to address health issues, such as premature deaths, Richardson said.

“Some places have a lot of challenges getting access to care and getting into diabetes treatments,” he said. “They don’t go to the doctor until it is critical. Those are preventable deaths.”

In Travis County, Shannon Jones, director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, said the county’s demographics and socio-economic conditions help Travis fare better than other urban counties such as Bexar, Dallas and Harris.

Travis County’s access to parks, trails and other fitness facilities also help the county rank high.

“People who are out working, exercising, doing the things they need to do result in better health outcomes,” he said.

However, Jones said disparities between healthier populations in western Travis County and the city of Austin and populations with poorer health migrating to the county’s eastern suburbs, including Pflugerville, are not reflected in the county health rankings.

“We’re looking at data to address disparities and target and promote healthy [lifestyles],” he said.

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