By on 2.5.21 in Health & Environment, NC in Focus

We recently worked with the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, the governments of the Towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, and Orange County to streamline existing processes for acquiring, updating, and maintaining the data they use for their community reports and presentations.

As part of that work, we’ve released a series of reports looking at demographic and economic trends in Orange County, NC. Here are some highlights from Carolina Demography’s report on community heath and well-being in Orange County. (Published July 7, 2020). You can read the full report here.

Orange County ranks highly across health indicators except physical environment

According to county health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Orange County ranked among the top five counties in North Carolina for five of the six major health indicators:

  • Length of Life (1st)
  • Quality of Life (4th)
  • Health Behaviors (3rd)
  • Clinical Care (1st)
  • Social and Economic Factors (3rd)

However, Orange ranks 46th out of 100 counties in Physical Environment factors.


Smaller share of children living in poverty than NC and most peer counties

  • As of 2018, the child poverty rate in Orange County was 11% – 9 percentage points below the state average (20%)
  • The child poverty rate in Orange was also lower than all peer counties except Wake (10%)

Teen pregnancy rates exceptionally low in Orange County

  • The number of births to mothers aged 15-19 was just 5 per 1,000 Orange County residents, on average, from 2012 to 2018.
    • The only other county with a similarly low rate is Watauga County, home to Appalachian State University, highlighting low birth rates among teens ages 18-19 who are enrolled in college.
  • This is compared to an average of 24 births per 1,000 residents ages 15-19 statewide, 13 in Wake County, and 17 in Chatham County.
  • Pregnancy rates among high school age teens (15-17) remain too low to calculate in Orange County. with just 8 reported pregnancies to 15-17-year-olds in 2018. (Rates based on small numbers—under 20 cases—are unstable and are not reported by the NC State Center for Health Statistics.)

Access to health insurance higher in Orange County than most surrounding counties

  • As of 2017, 12% of Orange County adults under age 65 were uninsured – below the adult uninsured rates for North Carolina (13%), Chatham County (17%), Alamance County (18%), and Durham County (18%)

Rates of child abuse and neglect have declined annually in Orange County

  • In 2018, 26.9 children per 1,000 were assessed for abuse or neglect – down 4.5 from last year’s rate (31.4).
  • This rate peaked at 41.5 children per 1,000 in 2015 and has steadily declined on an annual basis.


Female breast cancer rates have risen since 2013

  • In Orange County, the rate of breast cancer was 177.5 women per 100,000 in 2018 – up 5.4 since 2013 – representing a small but significant increase over time.
  • Among peer counties and the state, there were reductions in breast cancer rates among Wake County (-4), Durham County (-17.6), and the state (-0.2).
  • Alamance County also saw a substantial increase in breast cancer rates (+14.7).

Orange County ranks poorly in certain environmental factors

While ranked highly in all other health indicators assessed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Orange County ranked 46th out of 100 counties in Physical Environment. Factors for this include:

  • Low air quality – fine particulate matter was at higher levels than most peers and the state in 2014.
  • Water quality – At least one community water system in Orange County had a drinking water violation in 2018.

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