Report ranks overall health of Knox No. 10 among TN counties

By Kristi L. Nelson
Knox Countians are, overall, among the healthiest in the state. But we've got nothing on the folks in Williamson County.

Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report ranking state counties by overall health.

It put Williamson as Tennessee's healthiest county. Grundy County ranked last.

Knox County came in at a respectable No. 10 out of 95 Tennessee counties. Blount was the only East Tennessee county to break the top five, ranking No. 4; Loudon ranked 16th; Sevier 28th; Anderson 44th; Roane 45th; Jefferson 60th; and Hamblen 61st.

The report ranks the health of nearly every county in the nation, measuring people's health and length of life using a variety of factors. For Tennessee, it used five measures to rate overall health: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who report their health as only "fair" or "poor" instead of "good" or "very good"; the number of days people report being in poor physical or mental health; and the rate of low birth weight infants.

It also looked at four categories that affect people's health: health behavior, clinical care, social/economic factors and physical environment. That factored in smoking and obesity rates, births to teenagers, the number of people without insurance, high school graduation rates, access to primary-care doctors, violence rates, air pollution, the number of children living in poverty, how physically active people are, number of fast-food restaurants and access to healthy food, among other topics.

All these things are part of measuring health, said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president/CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor's office," Lavizzo-Mourey said. "In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live."

In Knox County, the rates of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity were lower than the state average but higher than the national benchmark.

While Knox Countians have better access to primary-care doctors and recreational facilities than residents of some smaller counties, the report indications it has more air pollution and fast-food restaurants than the state average. Knox scored fairly high in most of the health categories, but its No. 17 morbidity ranking and No. 90 ranking in physical environment dragged its score down.

The report's goal is to engage people in improving the health of their communities; the foundation provides suggested "roadmaps." Find ideas and see ranking details at