If you live in Montgomery County, the odds of you being a smoker, a couch potato or without access to doctors and dentists are lower than the average Marylander.
All of those factors give Montgomery County residents better health outcomes and longer lives than the state overall, by leaps and bounds in some cases, but there's one place in Maryland that consistently bests the state's most populous jurisdiction—Howard County.
Since 2010, Howard County and Montgomery County have had the same position on Maryland's list of healthiest counties—No. 1 and No. 2—a ranking created by University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute.
Members of the Healthy Montgomery Steering Committee, a community health improvement project that brings county agencies and health providers together to close health gaps, discussed 2012's rankings at a meeting last year and suggested that Howard's much smaller and affluent population was no comparison to a colossus like Montgomery. About 300,000 people live in Howard County and about 1 million live in Montgomery.
The official response from Dr. Ulder Tillman, county public health officer:
"The rankings also show how important it will be for us to sustain these results and learn from other counties how we might improve specific health factors,” Tillman wrote in an email to Patch.
Howard didn't beat Montgomery in every category. Montgomery has more doctors and dentists per person than Howard, a lower premature death rate, a smaller percentage of heavy drinkers and a lower violent crime rate.
Where Montgomery's northern neighbor does seem to be more successful is in so-called social and economic factors like the percentage of the population with a high school diploma (91 percent for Howard; 87 for Montgomery); how many people have at least few college credits (83 percent for Howard; 77 for Montgomery) and more nebulous factors like "inadequate social support," children in poverty and children in single-parent homes.
According to a release from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, the county will focus on:
- Reducing the percentage of people without insurance (currently higher than the national average at 13 percent).
- Increase testing and screening for diabetes and mammograms.
- Increase the percentage of adults who "feel they have adequate support systems."
- Reduce the percentage of fast food restaurants in the county (currently 67 percent of all restaurants).
See the full rankings below:RankCounty 1 Howard (HO) 2 Montgomery (MO) 3 Frederick (FR) 4 Queen Anne's (QA) 5 Carroll (CO) 6 Talbot (TA) 7 St. Mary's (SM) 8 Calvert (CA) 9 Anne Arundel (AN) 10 Harford (HA) 11 Worcester (WO) 12 Charles (CH) 13 Washington (WA) 14 Baltimore (BL) 15 Garrett (GA) 16 Prince George's (PG) 17 Kent (KE) 18 Wicomico (WI) 19 Cecil (CE) 20 Somerset (SO) 21 Dorchester (DO) 22 Allegany (AL) 23 Caroline (CR) 24 Baltimore City (BA)