Health News

How Healthy is Multnomah County?

New data reveal how Oregon’s most populous county stacks up against the rest of the state.

By Tuck Woodstock March 31, 2017

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Only 60 percent of Multnomah County residents drive alone to work.

Image: Shutterstock

How many Multnomah County re­sidents are uninsured? How many have HIV? How many drive alone to work? These are a few of many questions addressed by the 2017 County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. In March, the group released its most recent findings, shedding light on health factors and outcomes in all of Oregon’s 36 counties. Don’t have time to wade through the data? Don’t worry—we did it for you.

The Good News

It should come as no surprise that Portlanders have unparalleled access to exercise opportunities. A solid 99 percent of us enjoy “adequate access to locations for physical activities”—in other word, places to work out. And this access translates to results: 87 percent of the county’s adults report engaging in leisure time physical activity, putting us behind only Benton and Washington counties. Of course, we walk and bike for other reasons, too; a mere 60 percent of Multnomah County commuters report driving alone to work, beating out second-ranked Benton County by 5 percentage points.

Multnomah County residents experience the fifth-lowest number of poor health days per month, averaging 3.9 poor physical health days and 4.2 poor mental health days. But if you do need to find a doctor, we’ve got more good news. Multnomah County is ranked no. 2 for overall clinical care, and boasts some of the highest numbers of primary care physicians, dentists, and counselors (per capita) in the state. For example, while Linn County has one mental health provider for every 783 citizens, Multnomah County has one for every 149 citizens.

But wait, there’s more: Folks worried about food deserts may be heartened to know that 96 percent of the population has adequate access to healthy foods. (Of course, that still leaves 28,708 people with limited access.) And although 28 percent of residents sleep less than 7 hours per night, that’s actually the lowest percentage in Oregon. Winning? 

The Bad News

Celebrated for its thriving industry of local beer, wine, and spirits, Multnomah County also experiences the downside of a booze-based economy; 23 percent of adults report drinking excessively in the last month, a rate higher than any other Oregon county. In fact, 40 percent of driving deaths in the county involve alcohol. 

Multnomah County experiences the second-highest rate of chlamydia in the state—550 new cases for every 100,000 residents—and by far the highest HIV rate. (That’s 443 HIV cases per 100,000 residents, more than three times the rate of the second-highest county.)

What else can we work on? It might not be surprising to learn that we have the highest air pollution and violent crime rates in the state. Dive into the full data set here.

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