Hays County is ranked among the top 25 healthiest counties in Texas for the 5th year in a row, according to a national study.
The report was released March 15, titled County Health Rankings. It is annually conducted by the University of Wisconsin Health Population Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report is done through the evaluation of several factors, such as obesity, teen pregnancy, smoking and access to healthy foods.
Hays County is among the five central Texas counties who were rated in the top 25.
James Garza, chief of staff for Hays County, said the county heard about the report but does not track it annually.
“We are glad to be in the top 25 healthiest counties,” Garza said. “We just want people in our county to be healthy and better our communities.”
For years, the study has shown that an individual’s location can affect their wellness. However, this year’s analyses display meaningful health gaps that persist, not only due to place, but also race and ethnicity. Differences in opportunities that affect individuals of color are the main influences on the health gaps observed this year. Ultimately, this impacts access to quality education, jobs and safe, affordable housing.
In an official statement released the same day as the report, Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said leaders must utilize this report if they want to create safer and healthier communities.
“We can’t be a healthy, thriving nation if we continue to leave entire communities and populations behind,” Besser stated. “Every community should use their County Health Rankings data, work together, and find solutions so that all babies, kids, and adults have the same opportunities to be healthy.”
Hays County’s numbers rank alongside those of top U.S. performers. However, one of the areas where the county falls short is in clinical care. For every one primary care physician, there are 2,400 patients. This is compared to 1,030 patients for one primary care physician in top-ranking counties. In Hays County, for every 2,920 patients, there is one dentist. In top-ranking counties, there is one dentist for 1,280 people.
“Public health is handled at the city level. We are working with several Live Oak Heath partners to provide for the county,” Garza said. “We are not directly involved with reducing things such as teen birth or food insecurity since it is not in our department, but we help out indirectly.”
Hays County is reporting fewer violent crime offenses per 100,000 population. This is a consistent rate of 200 offenses per 100,000 population compared to the state of Texas and the United States, both of which have seen a decline but still average at a rate of 400 crime offenses per 100,000 population.
Garza attributes the high ranking of Hays County to a collective group effort done at the local level.
“The reason for our placement is a direct result of our community leaders,” Garza said. “It is a group effort fueled by volunteers who don’t get enough credit.”