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Pierce unmoved in overall County Health Rankings

Mar 29, 2017

TACOMA, Wash. – Still at 24 out of 39, Pierce County saw no overall movement in the 2017 County Health Rankings. But slightly lower rates of adult smoking and drinking, improvements in rates of physical activity and a decreasing level of teen births, uninsured and unemployed residents is good news.

The County Health Rankings explore how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive. While Pierce County hasn’t seen any dramatic improvement in overall health rankings from this or other similar reports, the community has enhanced its focus on collaborative efforts to tackle long-standing health challenges.

“The improvements in some health areas give us hope that the efforts of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and many community partners who are focused on health, are moving the needle in the right direction,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “Our Board of Health and leaders around the county are invested in improving our community’s health. We are working on it—together—and in a year or two, we expect to point to positive results,” said Chen.

In the 2017 County Health Rankings, while still below the state average, Pierce County has improved slightly in the following areas:

Adult smoking.
Adult obesity.
Physical activity.
Excessive drinking.
Alcohol-impaired driving deaths.
Teen births.
Rates of uninsured.

Improved and better than state average in:

High school graduates.
Access to exercise opportunities.

Fared worse than the state in the following health areas:

Premature deaths.
Preventable hospital stays.
Diabetes monitoring.
Sexually transmitted diseases.
Food environment index.
Access to primary care physicians.
Driving alone to work.
Violent crime.

“The health areas with room for improvement are similar to past years,” said Chen. “The way to improve health is to focus on the social, economic and environmental factors that affect health. We and our partners are working on this together. We have concrete strategies in our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan,” he said.

That plan relies heavily on Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Health Equity Report, which explores those social, economic and environmental factors as they apply to Pierce County. The report offers a response to many of the “why” questions the health rankings may provoke. It offers useful data to organizations that want to get an accurate picture of the county’s health—and what to do to improve it.

“We have a long way to go to ensure that all of our residents can experience good health outcomes, regardless of where they live, learn, work or play,” said Chen. “Improving our community’s health 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 healthcare 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 our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at

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