County near bottom of state health rankings

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Survey shows some improvement over 2011

By Pat Faherty

Gadsden County is again ranked near the bottom of the state regarding the health of its residents.
But the county’s health rankings have improved over 2011.
A 2012 survey measuring the overall health of every county in the nation puts Gadsden County at 62nd place and 65th place out of all of Florida's 67 counties.
Still, for the second straight year Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $200,000 in funding for a mobile health unit that would have served the entire county.
Gadsden County came in at 62nd place for health outcomes and 65th place for health factors. The county’s overall ranking is 62nd.
Health outcomes are based equally on long people live and how healthy people feel.
Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” by county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who reported being in fair or poor health; the number of days in poor mental health; and the rate of low birth weight infants.
Health factors’ rankings are based on the weighted scores of four types of factors. The survey considered health behaviors (30 percent), clinical care (20 percent), social and economic factors (40 percent) and physical environment (10 percent).
The health factors include tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use, unsafe sex, access to care, quality of care, education, employment, income, family and social support, community safety, environmental quality and built environment.
Gadsden County was in the top half of Florida counties – 31st – for access to clinical care, but ranked 67th regarding its physical environmental, which includes access to healthy foods.
But Gadsden County’s 2012 scores were a slight improvement over 2011 when county was ranked 64th overall in the state, coming in at 65th place for health factors and 64th place for health outcomes.
This year’s Rankings include several new measures, such as how many fast food restaurants are in a county and levels of physical inactivity among residents.
By comparison to Gadsden County for 2012, adjacent Leon County was ranked 7th in Florida’s health outcomes and 9th in health factors. Jackson County was 36th in health factors and 45th in health outcomes.
Neighboring Decatur County, just across the Georgia state line, ranked 89th in health outcomes and 148th in health factors, out of 156 Georgia counties.
St. Johns County on Florida’s northeast coast ranked number one in Florida’s health outcomes and was number one in health factors.
The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published the 2012 County Health Rankings, now in its third year.
“The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of RWJF. “In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live.”
“After three years, we’ve learned that people across the entire nation want to know how the health of their county compares to others in their state. This annual check-up helps bring county leaders together to see where they need to improve,” said Patrick Remington, M.D., M.P.H., professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“It’s really exciting to see that the Rankings continue to serve as a call to action to take steps to improve the health of communities.”