Middle Georgians fare well in health study

mstucka@macon.comMarch 26, 2014 

A study released Wednesday suggests that most Middle Georgians are getting healthier compared to the rest of the state, even as they faltered on scores of healthy behavior and other healthy factors.

Most midstate counties leapfrogged over other Georgia counties to improve on a measure of early death and quality of life, according to the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Houston County remained the area’s highest-performing, passing one county to rank 22nd healthiest of the state’s 159 counties, while Monroe County improved a place to 36th.

On the low end, Bibb County was stagnant at 139th. Bleckley County improved six places to 131st; and Wilkinson County moved up two places to become the 140th healthiest county in the state.

Baldwin County posted the strongest improvement, increasing 14 spots to 76th.

Other places that improved were Jones County, up five slots to 49th, and Laurens County, up four positions to 80th.

Peach County slid back two places, to 98th.

The biggest local change was in Twiggs County, which fell 39 places to 133th. That was the third-largest change in rank in the entire state.

Twiggs County’s score was due to a massive decrease in the study’s quality of life determination, which shifted from 105th in the state -- about a third of the way from the bottom -- to 152nd, or very close in the bottom.

One in three Twiggs County residents was reported to be in poor or fair health, twice the rate of the average Georgian. In any 30-day period, Twiggs County residents reported feeling poorly 4.6 days, a fast change from the 3.5 days of the previous survey.

Middle Georgia counties didn’t fare well in the study’s evaluation of health factors, which includes grades on tobacco use, diet and exercise, education, income, and air and water quality.

Major changes included Laurens County improving nine places, to rank 84th in the state; Peach County, falling nine places to 114th; Twiggs County, falling 10 places to 118th; Bleckley County, losing 13 places to 68th; Wilkinson County, dropping 22 places to 100th; and Crawford County, dropping 38 places to rank 105th. Bibb County improved three places to 74th, while Houston County improved two positions to 25th.

Detailed results are online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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