County health predictions: tough science

Lexie Heinle | April 7, 2015

From overestimating their county's health status to underestimating certain diseases, county health officials' estimates are rarely exact, according to data from the Community Health Status Indicators. The project, which is through the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, collects county-level health statistics, demographics and health indicators. It also reveals the differences between county health officials' expectations and reality.

Counties with higher self-reported health statuses have lower average lifetime expectancy, which is shown in light red. Those counties' overconfidence could have significant consequences on health budgets and programs.

The graphs below display the variability of actual and estimated disease cases. With the E. coli graph on the left and the salmonella graph on the right, the visualizations show which counties underestimated their actual cases, which will show as a positive number. Overestimations appear as a negative number.

Disease Difference between actual and estimated cases
E. coli -8
Salmonella 1
Shigella 28
Influenza B -7
Hepatitis A -8
Hepatitis B 1
Whooping cough -27
Syphilis 6

Lancaster county's variability of actual and estimated cases from various diseases is shown on the left. Shigella, underestimation of 28, and whooping cough, overestimation of 27, are two significant differences in the roster of close matches.