Can you name “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids” when you only account for 38% of US counties?

US News & World Report recently released a list of “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids.” However, there is a problem with the rankings: more than half of American counties aren’t included in the data.

About 1,200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties (a total that takes in county equivalents such as Louisiana’s parishes) were evaluated for the rankings. Many states don’t collect county-level information on residents’ health, whereas populous states, such as California, Florida and New York, tend to gather and report more data. In some counties, the population is so small that the numbers are unreliable, or the few events fall below state or federal reporting thresholds. And because states don’t collect county-level information on childhood smoking and obesity, the rankings incorporated percentages for adults. Catlin says this is justified because more adult smokers mean more children are exposed to secondhand smoke, a demonstrated health risk. Studies have also shown a moderately strong correlation between adult and childhood obesity, she says.

The experts who study community health yearn for more and better data. “We don’t have county-level data on kids with diabetes, controlled or uncontrolled, or on childhood obesity rates,” says Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “Almost every kid in this country goes to school. We could measure height and weight, but nobody’s connecting the dots.”

This won’t stop counties high on the list from touting their position. See this Daily Herald article about DuPage County coming in at #20. But, there should be some disclaimer or something on this list if a majority of US counties aren’t even considered. Or, perhaps such a list shouldn’t be too together at all.

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