Montgomery County residents are a pretty healthy group, according to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a project from the American Public Health Association that ranks health factors in counties across the United States.
Looking at a variety of behavioral and environmental factors, including access to health care, diet and exercise and income, Montgomery was ranked the second healthiest county in Maryland. Our neighbors to the north, Howard, were named the healthiest.
Social and economic factors like employment status and income levels are a huge determinant of whether a person is sick or healthy, according to the project, which assigned 40 percent of each county's score to these factors.
Healthy behaviors -- such as diet and exercise, and smoking and drinking habits -- accounted for about 30 percent of the ranking.
Twenty percent of the ranking was determined by the access to and quality of healthcare available to residents, and the final 10 percent considered the quality of the environment.
"For us, it’s really more an issue of our health disparities rather than our overall population outcome," said Dr. Ulder Tillman, chief of public health services and health officer for Montgomery County.
She oversees Healthy Montgomery, a community health improvement project that brought health providers, hospitals, insurers, county agencies and other community members together to try and close health gaps in the county.
"Healthy Montgomery is very much embedded in a social determinant of health," she said. "So it’s not just physical health, but also those factors that influence our health and healthy behaviors."
Healthy Montgomery looks at poverty, race, housing, education, employment status and other factors when evaluating the overall health of residents.
Recently, the group formed work groups to focus on obesity and behavioral health. Tillman said obesity is a concern for some ethnic groups in the county.
Still, as a collective, Montgomery County residents live longer and healthier lives than the average Maryland citizen.
Less people die prematurely, less residents are obese, less people smoke and less people are uninsured than the state average. About 12 percent of Montgomery is uninsured, compared with 13 percent of Maryland; the national average is 11 percent.
Montgomery County also bests the state in the percentage of residents with high school diplomas and some college.
(Head here to see the full ranking.)
A sampling of other county rankings in Maryland: Prince George's was 15th, Baltimore City was 24th, Baltimore County was 13th and Anne Arundel was 10th.