Healthy people

Pitkin County is the third healthiest in the state, according to a recently published ranking that looks at factors tracked by the life insurance industry. Low obesity and smoking rates and high life expectancy were the strongest factors in the county’s favor.

Data analysis looking at longevity, health behaviors and access to health care to determine the healthiest counties in Colorado ranked Pitkin County at No. 3.

The rankings produced on behalf of a financial services company has Pitkin County behind Boulder and Douglas counties, in second and first place, respectively. Eagle County was fifth on the list. 

Per the ranking methodology, Garfield County is the 20th healthiest, out of 64 counties in the Centennial State (15 counties are not ranked in the survey).

The survey, emailed to reporters from a New York-based financial advisory group SmartAsset, is geared toward the life insurance market.

“An individual's health is key to assessing life expectancy, which is the ultimate determinant of the price one pays for life insurance,” according to a briefing on the survey’s methodology. 

The highest-weighted indicator in the survey, at 50 percent, relates to average length of life, specifically the years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 residents. The next most important factor, at 30 percent, involves specific health behaviors — smoking, obesity and excessive drinking. 

Also factoring into the rankings weighted at 20 percent is access to health care, as measured by the rate of primary care physicians per 100,000 residents and the uninsured rate, or the percentage of the population under age 65 without health insurance.

Pitkin County has the highest ranking in the state under the “years of potential life lost” metric.

For health behaviors, Pitkin County is eighth in the state. Adult obesity and smoking rates, at 15.3 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively are both near the top for Colorado, however excessive drinking at 23.2 percent is above the state average of 19.2 percent.

Douglas County, containing many affluent suburban areas south of Denver, clocks in with a 9.5 percent adult smoking rate, 18.6 percent adult obesity and 19.7 percent excessive drinking rate.

Pitkin County compares poorly to other “healthiest counties” in terms of access to health care, thanks to the 12.1 percent uninsured rate and 73 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. Front Range counties in the top 10 have more than 100 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, according to the rankings, and lower uninsured rates.