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Fewer Dying Before 75 in Florida

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Three Tampa Bay counties improved their health score in this year’s annual County Health Rankings, released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Hillsborough County is the 28th healthiest county in Florida, up three places from 31 in 2014’s report. One reason, according to the report, is that fewer people are dying before they turn 75.

This death rate is one of 30 indicators used in the annual rankings to determine the overall health of each county and health factors that influence those numbers.

This death rate number also decreased in Pasco, and in Pinellas, held steady. The overall health scores of both counties increased.

The number of people dying before they turn 75 is dropping in more than half of the nation’s counties, researcher said. They’ve steadily declined in Florida overall since 1997.

“60 percent of our counties are seeing declines in premature death rates, which is great,” said Andrea Ducas, a RWJF program officer. “It's something we are always looking for.”

The rankings also show that almost one-out-of-four children in the U.S. live in poverty, violent crime rates are highest in the Southwest, Southeast and Mississippi Delta regions, and that unemployment rates are 1.5 times higher in the least healthy counties in each state as they are in the healthiest counties.

“County Health rankings really helps us to understand that where we live, where we work and where we play influences our health and health is about having more than just access to good health care when you need it,” Ducas said. “We know that things like jobs and education and having good access to exercise and healthy food all influences a person’s health.”

For the first time, RWJF is ranking income inequality, which measures the relative health of those within the top 20th percentile over the bottom 80th percentile, as a factor that influences health.

This year’s rankings also shine a light on the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy counties. The healthiest counties in each state have higher college attendance, fewer preventable hospital stays and better access to parks and gyms.

The least healthy counties in each state have more smokers, more teen births and more alcohol-related car crashes.

This is the sixth year for the rankings. 

Once again, St. John's County tops the list as the healthiest Florida county.

Top five counties:

1. St. John's

2. Collier

3. Martin

4. Seminole

5. Miami-Dade

Bottom five counties:

63. Dixie

64. Hamilton

65. Putnam

66. Washington 

67. Union 


Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.