Community Health Status Indicators for Metropolitan Washington: An In-Depth Look 2009

Publication date: 
June, 2009
The Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area is home to more than four million people who live in the city and the surrounding Virginia and Maryland communities. All of us who live here hope that we, our families, friends and neighbors can be healthy and stay healthy throughout our lives. But how healthy are we?
When thinking about health, we all too often think about health care—the services of doctors, hospitals, clinics, and others who provide care to those who are already sick. But, while health care is an essential component of any strategy to protect health, of equal importance are those factors that can prevent health problems and improve basic health and well being.
As a result of extensive research, it is now widely accepted as fact that our health—whether excellent, good, fair, or poor—is not simply a matter of genetics, personal behaviors, or lifestyle choices. Nor it is just a matter of insurance coverage and access to healthcare services. While these things are important, our health is actually determined by the conditions and characteristics of our everyday lives: our race and ethnicity, our educational level and income, our family history and early life experiences, our neighborhoods, and even the homes in which we live. These factors, along with the concomitant issues of racism, prejudice and discrimination, are collectively referred to as the “social determinants of health.” It is therefore important to view health in the broader demographic and socioeconomic context.
This Community Health Status Indicators for Metropolitan Washington: 2009 provides a snapshot of the region’s demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and the “health” of adults in the Washington region. The report assembles data from 13 individual jurisdictions (Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, which include local municipalities; the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William and cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park in Virginia; and the District of Columbia).
This report represents a collaboration between the Health Officials Committee (HOC) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government (MWCOG) and the Health Working Group (HWG) of Washington Grantmakers. After several months of meetings, these two groups concluded that an update of the 2001 Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments report, “Community Health Indicators for the Washington Metropolitan Region,” was warranted.2 That report looked at the health of the region’s population in the context of the Leading Health Indicators3 being used by the federal and state governments to measure progress in achieving the “Healthy People 2010” objectives.
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