Health & Fitness

Thurston County residents among the healthiest in Washington, study finds. Here’s why

Recent drop in client numbers concerns Thurston food bank director

Thurston County Food Bank Director Robert Coit is concerned by recently declining client numbers at their downtown Olympia location, citing safety fears he's receiving from volunteers & clients.
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Thurston County Food Bank Director Robert Coit is concerned by recently declining client numbers at their downtown Olympia location, citing safety fears he's receiving from volunteers & clients.

Thurston County residents are among the healthiest in Washington.

That’s the finding of a study published Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The 50-state study ranked every county by two metrics, health outcomes and health factors.

Health outcomes measure premature deaths, percentages of people in poor or fair health, the number of sick days residents take and babies with low birth weight, among other trends.

Health factors measure health behaviors, clinical care, the physical environment and other social and economic conditions.

The report found that Thurston County ranked No. 5 out of 39 counties on health outcomes. The county fell behind Island County and ahead of Whitman County. Coming in at No. 1 was San Juan County. Ferry County ranked last in the study.

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An estimated 12 percent of Thurston County residents recorded being in poor or fair health, putting the county just below the statewide average of 14 percent.

The report showed that Thurston County residents had greater access to doctors — 1,040 residents for every one primary care physician — than the statewide average of 1,220 residents per primary care physician.

But while the report held good news for some counties, it was far from universal.

“The data show that, in counties everywhere, not everyone has benefited in the same way from these health improvements,” the study found. “There are fewer opportunities and resources for better health among groups that have been historically marginalized, including people of color, people living in poverty, people with physical or mental disabilities, LGBTQ persons, and women.”

The study authors wrote that many of the differences in opportunity were “the result of policies and practices at many levels that have created deep-rooted barriers to good health, such as unfair bank lending practices, school funding based on local property taxes, and discriminatory policing and prison sentencing.”

“The collective effect is that a fair and just opportunity to live a long and healthy life does not exist for everyone. Now is the time to change how things are done,” the report concluded.

The full study can be found at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


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