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YPLL: A Primer

Today’s subject is YPLL.  YPLL is the acronym for Years of Potential Life Lost, which is probably the most common way of gauging premature death and is more or less the Dow Jones Industrial Average of public health.  If you want a quick, one-number look at the health status of a county or state or nation, you look at YPLL and whether it’s getting better or worse.

Basically, YPLL is calculated by taking the number of people who die in a community in a given year and subtracting their ages at death from 75, which is the most commonly used projected “end point age.”  I’m 64.  If I die this year, I’ll contribute 11 years to Fulton County’s bucket of Years of Potential Life Lost.  An infant who dies at the age of six months would contribute 74.5 years to that same YPLL bucket.

To calculate an area’s YPLL rate, you’d add up all those years of potential life lost in a given year, divide that number by the population of the area, and then multiply that number by 100,000.  That gives you what’s called a YPLL 75 rate per 100,000 population.  The lower the result, the better your YPLL rate is.

In 2010, the University of Wisconsin reported Georgia’s YPLL rate at 8,260; by 2012, it was down to 7,965, a 3.6 percent improvement.  Not terrible, but not great.  Massachusetts, which generally enjoys some of the best health metrics in the country, had a 2010 YPLL rate of 5,681; by 2012, it was down to 5,441, an improvement of 4.2 percent.

So Massachusetts had a better YPLL than Georgia to begin with, and they’re managing to improve at a faster pace.

(Note: The years cited above and elsewhere in this post are the years in which the data was reported by the University of Wisconsin, not the years for when it was actually collected and aggregated.  As with most other vital statistics data, there is typically a lag of several years between the collection of YPLL data and its actual reporting.  For YPLL, the University of Wisconsin study relies on three-year rolling averages.  For its 2010 report, it used YPLL data for the years 2004-2006; for 2012, it used 2006-2008 data.)

The “national benchmark” set by the University of Wisconsin study for 2012 is 5,466.

Now, with all that as a frame of reference, let’s look at YPLL rates for different areas of Georgia.  There’s good news, bad news, and really ugly news – and as with obesity there’s a lot of disparity across the state.

The best YPLL rate in Georgia is held by Fayette County, which has ranked as Georgia’s healthiest county in all three of the University of Wisconsin’s annual county ranking reports.  Fayette’s 2012 YPLL rate was 4,384 – better than Massachusetts, better than the national benchmark of 5,466, probably about as good as you’re going to find anywhere.

As a sub-region, the handful of counties across northern Metro Atlanta probably constitutes the healthiest area in Georgia.  Cherokee (2012 YPLL rate of 5,465), Cobb (5,432), Forsyth (4,641), and Gwinnett (5,364) all have numbers in line with or better than the national benchmark.  If we could isolate data for north Fulton County (from the Chattahoochee River north), its numbers would no doubt be similar.

As a larger region, the 16 counties we’ve lumped into the greater Metro area don’t perform quite as well, but still do significantly better than the state as a whole.  From 2010 to 2012, the average YPLL rate for these counties improved from 7,211 to 6,831, or 5.27 percent.  The numbers still aren’t as good as Massachusetts’, but the rate of improvement is a little better.

Outside Metro Atlanta, the picture is pretty grim.  In last week’s blog about obesity in Georgia, we introduced the theoretical State of South Georgia, comprised of 105 counties from roughly the gnat line south to the Florida line.  For this YPLL analysis, we dropped four counties – Clay, Echols, Taliaferro and Webster – because their numbers were too small to develop a sound estimate.

For the remaining 101 counties, the 2012 YPLL rates ranged from a very respectable 6,315 in Columbia County to Third World numbers approaching 15,000 in Bacon, Calhoun and Glascock.  Overall, these counties saw their average YPLL rate improve only 2.54 percent, from 10,835 in 2010 to 10,559 in 2012.


(If you want to know more about Georgia’s YPLL data, you can find it at the state’s Online Analytical Statistical Information System (OASIS) website at http://oasis.state.ga.us/oasis/oasis/qryMorbMort.aspx .)

What’s more, there are 52 counties in Georgia whose YPLL rates deteriorated between 2010 and 2012.  Of those, 22 are in South Georgia, 17 in Middle Georgia, 11 in North Georgia (outside Metro Atlanta), only one in the core ARC region, and none in the surrounding suburban/exurban counties.  That complete list is pasted in below.

In our next blog, we’ll begin taking a look at some of the fiscal and economic dimensions of these numbers.

County Rural/ Urban Region 2010 Population 2010 YPLL Rate 2011 YPLL Rate 2012 YPLL Rate YPLL Change (2010-2012) Pct Change
Appling Rural South 18,236 12208 12171 12328 -120 -0.98%
Bacon Rural South 11,096 13130 14962 14336 -1206 -9.19%
Baker Rural South 3,451 8268 10896 11404 -3137 -37.94%
Baldwin Urban Middle 45,720 8013 8678 8386 -373 -4.65%
Banks Rural North 18,395 7859 9218 9280 -1421 -18.09%
Brantley Rural South 18,411 12907 13646 13830 -923 -7.15%
Burke Rural Middle 23,316 12290 12555 12926 -636 -5.18%
Butts Rural Middle 23,655 8944 10201 10857 -1913 -21.39%
Charlton Rural South 12,171 9672 9981 10705 -1033 -10.68%
Chattahoochee Rural Middle 11,267 7899 6434 8039 -140 -1.77%
Chattooga Rural North 26,015 10427 10778 10512 -85 -0.82%
Clarke Urban North 116,714 7275 7299 7376 -101 -1.38%
Coffee Urban South 42,356 10539 10827 10617 -78 -0.74%
Dade Rural North 16,633 8766 9207 9640 -875 -9.98%
Decatur Rural South 27,842 10266 9342 10388 -122 -1.19%
Dodge Rural South 21,796 10343 11771 12106 -1763 -17.04%
Early Rural South 11,008 10698 11604 12052 -1355 -12.66%
Effingham Urban South 52,250 7777 7603 8046 -269 -3.46%
Evans Rural South 11,000 9731 11188 10861 -1130 -11.62%
Glascock Rural Middle 3,082 13386 13407 14995 -1609 -12.02%
Glynn Urban South 79,626 9951 10534 10736 -785 -7.89%
Haralson Rural North 28,780 11182 11924 11443 -261 -2.34%
Harris Rural Middle 32,024 7143 7260 7644 -501 -7.02%
Heard Rural Middle 11,834 11003 10574 11219 -217 -1.97%
Henry Urban ARC 203,922 7071 7320 7436 -365 -5.16%
Jasper Rural North 13,900 8355 9204 8942 -587 -7.02%
Johnson Rural Middle 9,980 9221 10143 9226 -6 -0.06%
Lamar Rural Middle 18,317 10841 10774 11366 -525 -4.84%
Lee Rural South 28,298 6433 6868 7244 -811 -12.60%
Liberty Rural South 63,453 8692 8431 8992 -300 -3.45%
Long Rural South 14,464 10582 11674 11710 -1127 -10.65%
Lumpkin Rural North 29,966 7579 8011 8649 -1070 -14.12%
Macon Rural Middle 8,742 11754 13223 12755 -1002 -8.52%
Madison Rural North 21,875 8294 8915 9218 -924 -11.14%
Miller Rural South 6,125 10173 12246 12782 -2609 -25.65%
Mitchell Rural South 23,498 9720 9424 9885 -165 -1.69%
Morgan Rural North 17,868 7170 7320 7287 -117 -1.63%
Muscogee Urban Middle 189,885 10561 10521 10597 -36 -0.34%
Oglethorpe Rural North 14,899 7717 8232 7984 -266 -3.45%
Peach Rural Middle 27,695 10122 11177 11109 -987 -9.75%
Putnam Rural Middle 21,218 9530 9589 9931 -401 -4.21%
Richmond Urban Middle 200,549 11478 11372 11598 -120 -1.05%
Screven Rural Middle 14,593 10154 10421 12092 -1938 -19.09%
Stephens Rural North 26,175 10876 11082 10880 -4 -0.04%
Stewart Rural South 6,058 12443 14543 13812 -1369 -11.00%
Talbot Rural Middle 6,865 14782 16563 15837 -1055 -7.14%
Washington Rural Middle 21,187 10295 10147 12370 -2075 -20.16%
Wayne Rural South 30,099 10554 11680 11315 -761 -7.21%
Wheeler Rural South 7,421 9039 8763 9535 -496 -5.49%
Wilcox Rural South 9,255 11792 11325 12201 -409 -3.47%
Wilkinson Rural Middle 9,563 10283 10607 10928 -645 -6.27%
Worth Rural South 21,679 9454 9616 10153 -699 -7.39%

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