While United Way, in partnership with many members of our community, has taken important steps to
improve the health of our community, the County Health Rankings make it clear that there is much more
we can do to help Madison County residents lead healthier lives.
The Rankings, released every year by United Way in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, show us that where we live
matters to our health and that not everyone has the chance to reach their full health potential. The
Rankings show us that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care, including jobs,
housing, education, poverty, and more.
We know that there are areas where we can improve. For example, 43% of our children live in single-
parent households and 29% of our children live in poverty.
The good news is we are doing something about it. This year, United Way partnered with the Jackson-
Madison County School System to bring The Leader in Me program to three schools. These schools are
teaching our most vulnerable population to Be Proactive, to Begin with the End in Mind, to Put First
Things First, to Think Win-Win, to Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, to Synergize, and to
Sharpen the Saw by always improving. The program, based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly
Effective People, teaches 21 st -century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student
empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader. By also partnering with programs to
provide quality afterschool care, we are helping to ensure that our future leaders are equipped to lead the
next generation and are making an effort to break the vicious poverty cycle.
We are encouraged by improvements we’ve made in a number of factor areas, including our relatively
low percentage of 16-24 year-olds who are neither working nor in school. This shows that we are
engaging our youth in pursuing education or finding them ways to make a living. We are also encouraged
by the number of social opportunities available through various organizations. A 2001 study found that
the health risk associated with social isolation is similar to the risk of cigarette smoking. Researchers
have argued that social trust is enhanced when people belong to voluntary groups and organizations. Our
plethora of churches, social clubs, civic organizations and non-profits add to the quality of life in Madison
United Way understands that continued action is needed and that no single sector can tackle the barriers
to health without leveraging the knowledge, talents, and resources of others. It takes
everyone—nonprofits, businesses, policymakers, and individuals—working together to improve health
and ensure that people in Madison County and West Tennessee thrive. To live better, we must live