Island County ranks 4th healthiest in state

The county is ranked behind San Juan, King and Whitman counties.

A national program has once again ranked Island County as among the healthiest counties in the state.

The County Health Rankings & Roadmap, a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, released the latest survey this week.

Island County is rated No. 4, behind San Juan, King and Whitman counties. Neighboring Snohomish County isn’t far behind at No. 6 and Skagit County is ranked No. 14.

Theresa Sanders, Assessment and Healthy Communities director in Island County Public Health, noted that the statistics used in the rankings do not take the pandemic into account since public health data tends to lag by a year or more.

Still, the survey is one of the valuable indicators the department looks at when considering the overall health of the community and identifying areas that should be focused on.

Sanders pointed out that this survey looks beyond traditional behavioral health factors like smoking and obesity to a “social determinant model” that considers a much broader range of things that affect people’s health, such as education, poverty, violent crime and the environment.

“There are many social and economic factors that determine health,” she said, adding that the county’s natural environment and good air quality “gives us a lot of points.”

The county has a high rate of high school completions at 95 percent, a comparatively low rate of children in poverty at 9 percent and a rate of violent crime at 107 per 100,000, which is just a third of the state average.

On the other hand, the percentages of people in the county who smoke or are obese are slightly above the state average.

Sanders said she is especially concerned with the statistics related to alcohol, especially with recent news about the amount of alcohol consumption increasing during the pandemic.

She said the problem has been especially prevalent with women, who have been the focus of recent alcohol-related advertising campaigns.

The report states that 21 percent of adults in the county reported binge or heavy drinking, which is above the state average of 17 percent.

Driving deaths with alcohol involvement is 41 percent in the county, well above the state average of 33 percent.

Sanders said a perennial concern for Public Health officials in Island County is a stark lack of primary care physicians and mental health providers.

Island County has one primary care doctor for 2,720 people. The state average is one doctor for 1,180 people.

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