Press Release

March 30, 2011

Health Rankings Useful, But Incomplete Data Skews View Of The Region

WILLIAMSBURG, VA — A new national study ranking the health of communities is a useful tool for citizens and local officials, but the president of the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation says incomplete data skews its conclusions.

County Health Rankings, an annual survey by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ranks communities by "health factors" - measures of health risks, economic conditions and quality of health care ? and "health outcomes," which include premature deaths and quality of life.

Among Virginia's 132 communities, CHR ranks James City County second this year in health factors and seventh in health outcomes. It ranks York County fifth in health factors and fourth in health outcomes. Williamsburg, however, ranked only 74th in health factors and 106th in health outcomes.

WCHF President Jeanne Zeidler said the counties compare very well against the rest of the state. Williamsburg, however, is penalized because study organizers did not have city data for seven of the study's 22 categories. CHR, for example, lists the high school graduation rate for James City County but not Williamsburg, even though they share a school system.

"The study is a monumental look at the health of communities across the nation, and it's a valuable source of information," Zeidler says. "Unfortunately, local circumstances are not addressed. When you look at the data that is presented, area jurisdictions are very comparable. The rankings, however, would lead you to believe Williamsburg is far less healthy than its neighbors."

The discrepancies in data are shown in CHR's side-by-side comparisons of the three jurisdictions, located here. According to CHR, the survey is the only tool of its kind measuring the overall health of jurisdictions in all 50 states.

The Williamsburg Community Health Foundation, a non-profit organization, supports programs that improve the health of people living in Williamsburg and surrounding counties. It focuses on enhancing access to quality health services and promoting responsible health practices. The foundation was formed in 1996. Since then it has given more than $44 million to support community health programs in the area. More information is available at Follow us on Twitter at @WburgCHF.