Islamic Center of El Paso

El Pasoans are living longer but not necessarily better than their counterparts in most Texas counties.

El Paso County ranked 56th in overall health out of 244 Texas counties in the 2020 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps study. That’s an improvement over last year’s rank of 111th.

“There was some change in how people rate their quality of life that contributed to that latest ranking,” said Justin Rivas, an associate researcher and network strategist with the rankings organization. “But you’re also looking at all other counties in the studies and how they fared in comparison.”

The overall health rank is determined by measuring the length of life and quality of life by county. 

According to the study, El Pasoans are living longer, ranking 15th of 244 counties. That rank looks at premature death rate, or the years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 residents over a three-year period. 

When it comes to quality of life, which looks at how adults rate their physical and mental health, El Paso ranked 194th. That’s a slight improvement over last year’s 229th rank, but still lower than most Texas counties. 

Another improvement was in health behaviors – which looks at smoking, drinking, obesity and other factors – ranking 37th compared to 76th a year ago.

Now in its 10th year, the study is a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

It looks at an array of data from numerous national and state health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The latter is a national survey conducted annually by the CDC to assess and track behavioral risk factors such as whether people smoke or drink, and whether they have access to doctors, health insurance or recreational facilities.

“We’re looking not just at how we think of health traditionally, but also looking at how social and economic factors and the physical environment in which people live impact their health,” Rivas said. 

Among the organization’s goals is to look at health disparities – differences in opportunities and resources for better health among groups, particularly minorities, people living in poverty, those with physical or mental disabilities, women and LGBTQ persons.

“We choose measures where a city can dive into the data to come up with programs to address issues,” Rivas said.

Most of the data comes from the latest available statistics prior to the study – 2018 and older in most cases for this year’s rankings.

That of course means the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the community are not calculated into the 2020 rankings, Rivas said.

Rankings in the coming years are likely to look at – and certainly reflect – the pandemic’s impact, particularly in low-income and minority communities where health disparities are most prevalent, he added. 

Health Rankings and Roadmaps provides resources and networking for local health departments, community and nonprofit organizations, school systems and the private sector to work together to improve community health.

“That’s really the goal is to lay out all of this data that can bring about change,” Rivas said.

Here’s a glance at some of the key rankings in the study. For a full report, visit countyhealthrankings.org.

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