Orange County Ranks High for Health but Has Vast Income Disparity

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (March 21, 2018) – Orange County was named as one of the healthiest counties in North Carolina in the annual County Health Rankings report published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Orange County tops the list of 100 counties for length of life and ranks second for health outcomes. The good news is shadowed by the fact that Orange County also has the dubious distinction of having the largest income inequality for a county with more than 100,000 residents in the state.

Efforts to improve health in the United States have traditionally looked to the healthcare system as the key driver of health and health outcomes. “To improve the health equity and decrease the disparity in our county we need to also look at social, economic and environmental factors that influence health,” says Quintana Stewart, the Orange County Health Department Director.  

According to the health rankings, the number of children in poverty in Orange County varies widely by race, with 4% of white children living in poverty, 32% of Hispanic children and 25% of black children. The American Journal of Public Health reported that researchers found that social factors, including education, racial segregation, social supports, and poverty accounted for over a third of total deaths in the United States in a year.*

"The Orange County Health Department is determined to make progress on health disparities by race," said Stewart. "Our staff are attending racial equity seminars, they are holding monthly caucus meetings, we have established a racial equity commission, and we are even bringing a contingent of staff, partners, and community leaders to the Racial Equity Summit in Chicago in April. Although we are happy that Orange County is at the top of the list for health outcomes and length of life, we want that prosperity and health to extend to all residents of Orange County."

* Sandro Galea et al., “Estimated Deaths Attributable to Social Factors in the United States” American Journal of Public Health 101, no. 8 (August 2011):1456–1465, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300086.