Ranking the capital region’s healthiest counties

WASHINGTON — Several counties surrounding D.C. rank highly in an annual health study, although more Americans are dying prematurely across the United States.

Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties are the three healthiest jurisdictions in Virginia, while Montgomery and Howard counties top Maryland, in the 2017 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

In its county-by-county breakdown of health outcomes, the study looks at length of life and quality of life — including health behaviors such as smoking, obesity, physical activity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted infections and teen births.

As in most public health studies, health correlates with wealth, as residents in affluent communities usually have more access to health care.

Some findings are troubling: More Americans are dying prematurely.

After years of improvement, people dying before the age of 75, began to rise steadily in 2012.

Fewer people are dying prematurely in D.C. than in recent years, but the number of premature deaths remains above the national average.

Premature death has increased most among people aged 15 to 44.

Drug overdose is the single leading cause of premature death, with its greatest effect being felt in large suburban metro counties.

See where your county ranks.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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