The fourth annual County Health Rankings were released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. This year, Kittitas County was ranked as the healthiest county in Washington State. In the previous three years, Kittitas County ranked second healthiest, following San Juan County.
The County Health Rankings are based on a variety of health data related to illness and death. The healthcare system in Kittitas County can directly and indirectly affect about half of the items considered for the rankings.
An area where Kittitas County has improved over the past several years is the ratio of primary care providers to the number of county residents. Though the population of Kittitas County is growing, the number of primary care providers in the county is also growing. There are more physicians and mid-level practitioners available than ever before.
Health care providers and their teams can directly affect clinical care measures such as diabetic screening rates, mammography screening rates, and preventable hospital stays. They can also affect health behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity. Each of these items are considered in the most recent County Health Rankings, and most have shown improvement in Kittitas County since the first County Health Rankings report was released in 2010.
The announcement that Kittitas County is the healthiest county in Washington State comes one week after KVH Hospital was named as a Top 100 critical access hospital in the nation, emphasizing the strength of the healthcare system that is in place to serve Kittitas County residents.
As Kittitas Valley Healthcare clinics continue to improve services and move towards a patient centered medical home model, the health of patients is predicted to improve even further. A patient centered medical home model emphasizes working with patients to keep them well rather than only seeing patients after they have become ill. This might involve additional screenings for patients with chronic diseases, to ensure that the patient’s disease is being appropriately managed.
Another benefit of a patient centered medical home model is a decrease in costly emergency room visits. If a patient has a chronic disease that is well managed, they will be less likely to need medical intervention in an emergency setting. Over the past year, KVH Hospital has already seen the number of emergency room visits begin to decline.
For more information about the County Health Rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org