U.S. counties with better health have better performing economies. There’s a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy, where healthier regions enjoy lower unemployment and higher incomes, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index.

When compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index score, counties within the top 10 percent had:

  • A per capita income that’s $3,700 higher than the median
  • 10-year economic growth that’s 3.5% higher
  • An unemployment rate half a point lower.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) worked with Moody’s Analytics (part of the Moody’s financial services company) on this second edition of this research.

The research mined the data for 40 million commercially-insured members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, and found that five conditions are responsible for 30% of peoples’ ill health: depression, anxiety and other mood disorders; hypertension; diabetes; high cholesterol; and substance use disorders.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Healthier populations means healthier workers, and healthier workers are more productive and employed. This drives local economic health, BCBS and Moody’s conclude.

Moody’s broke out the statistical regression analysis in the report, which demonstrates some intriguing results, including these three statistically significant data points:

  • The average annual pay for people with higher health scores is $50,354, compared with people of lower health status earning $44,562 a year.
  • Employment growth rate over 5 years was 8.6% for healthier counties and 5.5% for the less-healthy; over 10 years, the growth rate for jobs was 15.2% for the healthy areas but only 6.8% for the less-healthy.
  • When unemployment fell in an area, its health score rose.

Note the five key conditions that most negatively impact a community’s health: depression, anxiety and other mood disorders; hypertension; diabetes; high cholesterol; and substance use disorders. In summary, mental/behavioral health, and the diseases related to cardiovascular and metabolic conditions that are largely driven by lifestyle [(food/nutrition, activity/exercise, smoking (don’t)]. Addressing the factors that underlie these areas would move the needle toward health and financial wellness.

Driving personal, population, and public health drives economic development and financial wellness to the individual and community. The BCBS/Moody’s research reinforces what many of us health economists have evangelized for decades: that health is wealth and wealth, health.


2 Comments on Connecting the Dots Between Population Health and the Local Economy

Geanean Ordonez said : Guest Report 5 years ago

While this report finding is not surprising, I think it misses one major factor, and that would be familial background. I recall my economics teacher in high school telling a room full of underprivileged classmates that statistically, you will never move more than 1 step beyond your parents' income level. In other words, if you're born to a lower-class or middle-class family, you will always stay in that bracket. Over the years those words have resonated with me and pushed me to work harder, to learn more, to be better. If not for my drive to acquire a better lifestyle and greater knowledge about health, I'd be part of that statistic. So perhaps it's not always "health is wealth"; we have to acknowledge that our upbringing and personal choices play a major role. Personal responsibility should not be disregarded.

Paul J Nelson said : Guest Report 5 years ago

There is really only one data set for state by state maternal mortality: 2001-2006. Using a state poverty data set of lowest to highest maternity levels. There is very high correlation between poverty and and each state's maternal mortality. As a reference, our nation's maternal mortality has worsened for 20 years. No other developed nation of the world has a worsening level of maternal mortality. We would need to reduce it by 75% to rank among the 10 best nation's (out of 47 developed nations.)

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