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Three Disparities That Show A Coloradan's Health Can Vary By Where They Live

Cara Pallone
O'Bannon's Irish Pub in Telluride. San Miguel County has the second highest rate of binge drinking in Colorado.

Colorado residents have vastly different health outcomes, based in part on where they live in the state. Rocky Mountain PBS News analyzed health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to rank each of the state's 64 counties based on a variety of health indicators from obesity, to amount of exercise, to smoking and premature deaths.

Read More: Colorado's Vices And Changing Population Are Starting To Take A Toll On Our Healthy Rep

"I believe five of the 10 healthiest counties were on the Western Slope," said Burt Hubbard of Rocky Mountain PBS News. "The opposite is true on the Eastern Plains and San Luis valley. They have the most unhealthy indicators."

It's the trends though, that are starting to show the developing gaps between the state's residents.

"One of the things we did notice is the disparities between the counties have grown over the last five years, so things like the number of unhealthy days has gone up on the Eastern Plains and the San Luis Valley, but gone down on the Western Slope, so the gaps are getting bigger."

These two charts show the differences between the healtheiest and unhealthiest counties in the state when it comes to years lost from premature deaths. Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Premature Deaths

"They have a category called 'years lost because of premature death.' If you look at the range, the rate per 100,000 people, it goes from something like 5,000 up to 100,000. So it's an incredible range by county. It shows how Colorado is composed of different segments that are completely different."


"Even though Colorado is the least obese in the nation, almost all of the counties saw an increase in the percentage of people who were obese in the last five years, so you see the trends go up."

Drinking And Smoking

"For smoking, [we see] fewer [people in Colorado]. For drinking, there's not much of a change over the last five years. It's the drinking where the Western Slope becomes the unhealthiest part. The top 8 counties for binge drinking are all on the Western Slope. In the case of Summit County, 33 percent of adults have engaged in binge drinking. Compared to places like, Lincoln County on the Eastern Plains or Rio Grande County, which is in southwest Colorado, only 9 percent. So it's a huge difference."

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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