A new study of state death rates shows more Floridians die early in some counties than in others—and researchers have a few ideas about how to change that.
The Florida State Health Gaps report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute examines factors that influence health—everything from smoking and obesity rates, to unemployment, to air pollution—alongside county-by-county death rates.
Controlling for county population size, researchers found there are nearly 8,000 preventable deaths annually in Florida. And based on the risk factors in the best-performing counties, the report highlights disparities the authors say could be changed if all Floridians had the same opportunities:
- 544,000 fewer adult smokers
- 478,000 fewer adults who are obese
- 799,000 fewer adults who drink excessively
- 1,000,000 fewer people who are uninsured
- 296,000 more adults ages 25-44 with some education beyond high school
- 147,000 fewer people who are unemployed
- 196,000 fewer children in poverty
- 56,000 fewer violent crimes
- 664,000 fewer households with severe housing problems
“This is really a call to action,” says Dr. Roderick King, a pediatrician and the CEO of the Florida Institute for Health Innovation in Miami.
King and the organizations behind this study hope that by highlighting these gaps throughout Florida, communities and policymakers will approach things like employment and housing and police policies as public health opportunities.
According to King, it may not be obvious at first, but those are the kinds of things that can have a big impact on health in the long term.
“Your capacity to graduate from high school is linked to your ability to have meaningful employment and to be able to provide for yourself and your family financially,” says King. “But what we also found is that if you're unable to do those things and hold a job that means you’re less likely to have health insurance, you’re less likely to probably have a healthier lifestyle.”