Uses of Population Health Rankings in Local Policy Contexts: A Multisite Case Study

Jonathan Purtle, Rachel Peters, Jennifer Kolker, Ana V. Diez Roux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Population health rankings are a common strategy to spur evidence-informed health policy making, but little is known about their uses or impacts. The study aims were to (1) understand how and why the County Health Rankings (CH-Rankings) are used in local policy contexts, (2) identify factors that influence CH-Rankings utilization, and (3) explore potentially negative impacts of the CH-Rankings. Forty-four interviews were conducted with health organization officials and public policy makers in 15 purposively selected counties. The CH-Rankings were used instrumentally to inform internal planning decisions, conceptually to educate the public and policy makers about determinants of population health, and politically to advance organizational agendas. Factors related to organizational capacity, county political ideology, and county rank influenced if, how, and why the CH-Rankings were used. The CH-Rankings sometimes had the negative impacts of promoting potentially ineffective interventions in politically conservative counties and prompting negative media coverage in some counties with poor rank.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-496
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Care Research and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • evidence-informed policy making
  • population health rankings
  • qualitative research
  • uses of research evidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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