County fairs poorly in health rankings

Published 7:12 pm Monday, March 25, 2013


Washington Daily News


Beaufort County, like other counties in eastern North Carolina, is among some of the unhealthiest counties in North Carolina, according to a recent study.

Beaufort County ranks 73rd among the state’s 100 counties when it comes to its health ranking, according to a collaborative report between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Wake County was ranked as the healthiest county in the state, with Columbus County ranked as the unhealthiest county.

“The rankings tell counties where they’re going well and where there are opportunities for improvement,” said Angela Russell, a spokeswoman for the University of Wisconsin, on Monday. “What it tells that where we live matters to our health. For a long time, the conversation has focused in on health care and doctors. While we know having access to health care — and good, quality health care — is really important, the county health rankings reinforce that message that a lot of what affects our health and our community’s health actually occurs outside of the doctor’s office.”

Things such as physical-activity levels, smoking, drinking, diet, water quality and air quality affect individuals’ health and communities’ health, Russell said.

“We want this information to be a call to action to leaders locally and across the nation on what they can do to improve the health of the nation from the ground up,” Russell said.

County health departments often use the study’s data to determine what specific health issues they may need to target, she said.

“We see this more than just being applicable to the health department. … We also see so many things that hospitals need to be engaged, educators need to be engaged, business leaders, faith communities. It’s everyone working together to foster and sustain a culture of health in a local community,” Russell said.

The study indicates that 20 percent of adults in the county are in poor or fair health compare to the state’s average of 18 percent. On average, a person in the county experiences four poor physical health days during a 30-day period and 2.4 poor mental health days during a 30-day period.

According to the study, 10.5 percent of all births in the county result in low birth weight, with the state average at 9.1 percent.

The study reports the county loses 9,400 potential years of life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population (county’s figure reflects adjustment made based on its population which is 47,507, according to latest census data).

Thirty-six percent of the county’s population is obese, according to the study, with 29 percent of the state’s population obese. The report shows that 30 percent of county residents 20 years old or older report no leisure-time physical activity, compare to 25 percent statewide.

The report shows a motor-vehicle death crash rate of 23 people per 100,000 population (adjusted for the county’s population).

The county’s rate of sexually transmitted infections is 438 cases per 100,000 people (adjusted for county’s population), according to the study.

For every 1,000 teenage girls ages 15 through 19, there are 60 births, with the statewide birth rate at 46 births, according to the study.

Nineteen percent of the county’s population under age 65 have no health insurance, the same as the state’s percentage, according to the study.

For every 1,991 residents in the county, there is one primary-care physician, according to the report. For every 3,018 residents, there is one dentist.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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