Healthy Whidbey

Congratulations, Island County. US News & World Report just reported on the health of hundreds of communities in the US. Island County, which is dominated by Whidbey Island, made the Honor Roll among its peer group – and it wasn’t just a short list of islands, but a much larger group. There’s more than one reason for the score and more than one reason to celebrate.

Get ready for some data.

Overall, Island County got a 71.8. That sounds like a C, but the average for its peers is 45.3. Ouch. Let’s see why that happened.

Life expectancy is 4 years higher than the national average, 81.9 vs 7.9 years. People are more active, 82.3% vs the typical American at 75.5%. Folks are less likely to smoke (tobacco, that is) 13.9% vs 17.3%. And only 11.4% of adults are considered to be in poor health vs 16.1% for the nation.

The population is definitely educated, with 42.9% having an advanced degree compared to the norm of 27.3%. The kids seem to be doing well, too – at least at the start. More fourth graders than average meet the standards 60.2% vs 51.6%, but the high school graduation rate is 3.9% below the national average of 87%.

Economically, there’s a surprise. Whidbey Island is working on becoming more affordable, but Island County’s poverty rate is less than 10% (9.6%). That’s below the national median of 16% despite having a higher unemployment rate, 6% vs 5% (national median). The jobs aren’t very diverse, though. The rest of the nation gets a score of 0.72, indicating lots of different types of jobs. Island County gets a score of 0.16, which reinforces the perception that there are two main job centers: Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and tourism. Unfortunately, affordability does become a housing issue. It takes 60.2 hours to afford a one bedroom apartment even though the national median is a more reasonable 42.5 hours.

Getting back to the healthy aspects, people are less likely to be obese (27.2% vs 31.0%) or to have diabetes (7.5% vs 9.3%). It probably isn’t much of a surprise to find that rural islands are less likely to have supermarkets (11.4% vs 21.6%) but are much more likely to have local farms, farmers markets, and neighborhood groceries (14.3/100K vs a much smaller 4.9%/100k).

FlightEating is paired with exercise in most personal health plans. Maybe health is helped by the facts that 27.4% of the population is within a half a mile of a park (instead of 14.6%), and that the air and water are cleaner than normal (0.7% vs 1.1% at risk, and 32.5/100K vs 38.3/100K, respectively. And for some reason, the exposure to toxins is much higher off-island. Island County’s score (whatever it is measuring) is only 30.52. The score for the US is 1,591.55, fifty times higher; and that is less than half the peer group’s score of 3,314.85, a hundred times higher than Island County’s.

Whether the measure is violent crime, homicide, or crashes, Island County only has about half the occurrences.

As documented in another post, non-profits are popular with 44.3/100K vs 38.1/100K for the US. (Dive into the post for a breakdown by city or region to be impressed with Clinton – no relation.)

Tom Trimbath-DSC_4856-Edit-FBISedit-CLEANSadly, but not surprisingly, commutes are longer. Ferries will do that to the numbers. The national median for hour-long commutes is 6.4%. Feel sorry for the 15.5% of islanders who spend more of their time traveling. Of course, a ride on the ferry is a bit more romantic than a ride in a bus.

Two stellar stats stand out by hitting the extremes. 1) Zero, count them, 0, naught, no days with extreme heat. (Though don’t be surprised to find people complaining about the temperature reaching 80F.) 2) One hundred percent, 100%, 1/1, everyone (really?) has internet access. Thank local firms like Whidbey Telecom for that (but don’t be surprised if it is a little less than 100%. Some folks retreat here to get away from cell phones, power lines, and the Internet.)

Island County should celebrate its standing in the honor roll. Some credit goes to the people. Some credit goes to the land. Some credit goes to luck (never forget that.) Maybe there shouldn’t be just one celebration. How about one party for each aspect? That sounds healthy.

PS
Congratulations to Island County’s neighbors that ranked well, too: Jefferson County and San Juan County. 

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