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|