Special Report

The Least Healthy County in Each State

Buchanan County, Va.
> Pct. without health insurance:
16.0%
> Pct. food insecure: 13.4%
> Obesity rate: 28.8%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 9.8%

The state of Virginia suffers from poverty issues, which are related to poor health choices and poor health outcomes, and Buchanan County is certainly no exception. Close to a third of the county’s children lived in poverty, more than double the state rate. Buchanan ranks as the least healthy county in Virginia. It should be no surprise, then, that the county has a rate of years lost due to premature death per capita that is more than double the state rate. Just under 29% of Buchanan County residents rated their health to be only fair or poor. Statewide, the rate was 13.5%. Just over 30% of Buchanan adults smoked compared with a 17.5% rate for Virginia as a whole. The county also had higher rates of obesity and lower rates of exercise among adults compared to both the state and the nation.

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Grays Harbor County, Wash.
> Pct. without health insurance:
20.1%
> Pct. food insecure: 17.3%
> Obesity rate: 34.6%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 11.8%

Compared to the population of Washington overall, Grays Harbor County residents had poorer health habits. A greater percentage of county residents smoked, a higher percentage were obese, and a larger proportion of the population was physically inactive than the comparable state rates. A greater percentage of county residents than state residents also engaged in binge drinking. The county lost an estimated average of 8,514 years due to premature death per year per 100,000 people. The rate in Washington State was just 5,506 years.

McDowell County, W.Va.
> Pct. without health insurance:
20.8%
> Pct. food insecure: 19.4%
> Obesity rate: 37.5%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 10.0%

Nearly one third of McDowell County residents rated their health as fair or poor, compared with 21.5% of all West Virginians, and more than double the 16.0% national rate. Many in the county had unhealthy habits, which may have helped contribute to this. About 40% of county residents were physically inactive, higher than both the state and national percentages. The state’s 37.5% obesity rate was 4.2 percentage points higher than the state’s rate and 10.5 percentage points higher than the national rate. Just over 35% of county residents smoked compared with 26.0% of all West Virginians.

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Menominee County, Wis.
> Pct. without health insurance:
14.9%
> Pct. food insecure: 18.1%
> Obesity rate: 39.2%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 14.1%

Almost half, about 45.6%, of Menominee County residents smoked — significantly higher than the 18.3% of all Wisconsinites and 20% of all Americans. The high smoking rate combined with relatively high rates of obesity and physical inactivity, contributed to Menominee County rank as the least healthy county in Wisconsin. These unhealthy habits may have contributed to the state’s high rate of premature deaths. The county lost an estimated average of 13,323 years due to premature death per year per 100,000 people. The Wisconsin rate was just 7,360 years.

Fremont County, Wyo.
> Pct. without health insurance:
23.7%
> Pct. food insecure: 14.0%
> Obesity rate: 25.0%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.0%

Although only 13.9% of Fremont County residents considered their health to be fair or poor, the county ranked as the least healthy in Wyoming. The relatively low percentage of the poor health self assessment compared favorably with the national rate of 16.0%. Fremont County, though, struggled with a high infant mortality rate of just under 10 deaths per 1,000 live births before the age of one compared to a statewide rate of 7. Fremont’s smoking and physical inactivity rates both exceed the state’s rates.

Click here to see the healthiest county in each state.

Correction: In a previous version of this article Buchanan County was incorrectly described as part of West Virginia. While the data associated with the county was correct, Buchanan is in fact a county in Virginia.