Are US degree-granting institutions associated with better community health determinants and outcomes?

Aaron Spaulding, S. Stallings-Smith, A. Mease, A. Spaulding, E. Apatu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The impact of individual education level on health outcomes is well-established, but the effect of degree-granting institutions on county health rankings (CHRs) is unknown. The objective of this study is to determine if there is an association between the presence of degree-granting institutions and CHRs. Study design: This is an ecologic study. Methods: Data for 3062 counties were derived from the Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System for year 2016. Ordinal logistic regression was utilized to determine the association between presence of a degree-granting institution and county rankings for health behaviors, health outcomes, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. All models were adjusted for potential confounding factors including age, sex, race/ethnicity, English language proficiency, and urban/rural location. Results: The presence of a degree-granting institution was positively associated with CHRs for length of life (odds ratio [OR] = 1.28; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.05, 1.58), health behaviors (OR = 1.46; 95% CI: 1.19, 1.79), and clinical care (OR = 1.36; 95% CI: 1.11, 1.67). Counties with the highest rankings in one health category were more likely to score in the highest rankings for other health categories. Conclusions: These findings suggest that degree-granting institutions are associated with CHRs. Partnerships between public health agencies and degree-granting institutions are recommended to improve population health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Community health
  • County health ranking
  • Degree-granting institution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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