The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report last week and Georgia — and particularly Bibb County could use a heavy dose of improvement. The report is aimed at state leaders to help them “identify ways for everyone to have a fair chance to lead the healthiest life possible,” the report states.
The report focuses on the “gaps in opportunities for health that exist between counties within Georgia, and provide strategies to address factors that influence these differences.” For example, if every Georgia resident had the same opportunities for health, according to the report, what would that look like?
▪ 292,000 fewer adult smokers
▪ 181,000 fewer adults who are obese
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▪ 284,000 fewer adults who drink excessively
▪ 273,000 fewer people who
▪ 182,000 more adults, ages
25-44, with some education beyond high school
▪ 72,000 fewer people who are unemployed
▪ 194,000 fewer children in poverty
▪ 220,000 fewer households with severe housing problems
The study gives an overall ranking it calls “Health Outcomes.” And it ranks “Length of Life” that measures premature death and “Quality of Life” that factor in poor or fair health, poor physical health days, poor mental health days and low birthweight.
Macon-Bibb County’s “Heath Outcomes” ranking in the report is 142. Length of Life is 147, with 11,200 premature deaths. In comparison, counties that perform the best only had 5,200 premature deaths. In Quality of Life, Bibb ranked 127.
Houston County is ranked 27 in Health Outcomes, 14 in Length of Life with only 6,600 premature deaths, and 53 in Quality of Life.
Peach County is ranked 101 in Health Outcomes, 111 in Length of Life with only 9,900 premature deaths, and 83 in Quality of Life.
Jones County is ranked 28 in Health Outcomes, 19 in Length of Life with only 6,800 premature deaths, and 42 in Quality of Life.
Monroe County is ranked 51 in Health Outcomes, 48 in Length of Life with only 8,000 premature deaths, and 73 in Quality of Life.
There are other measurements, such as health factors, that are in the report that were not included in the overall ranking, but interesting data nonetheless (all figures are from Macon-Bibb County): Smoking (22 percent), obesity (36 percent), physical inactivity (29 percent), access to exercise opportunities (41 percent), excessive drinking (14 percent), alcohol-impaired driving deaths (26 percent). Macon-Bibb’s ranking for Health Factors in the report is 158.
There are three statistics that truly stand out: Children in poverty, Children in single parent households and violent crime. For Macon-Bibb, those numbers are 42 percent , 55 percent and 511 for crime. In Houston County the numbers are, 23 percent, 38 percent and 326.
Forsyth County is the No. 1 ranked county in Georgia. Ninety-four percent of its residents have graduated from high school and 77 percent have some college. Only 7 percent of its children live in poverty and only 15 percent of its children come from single parent households. Forsyth County is not without its issues, 29 percent of its adults are considered obese and 23 percent of its driving deaths are attributed to alcohol impairment.
At the bottom end of the rankings sits Quitman County where 34 percent of its population is considered obese and for a county that has less than 3,000 people that’s quite a number. The county has no primary doctor and only one dentist and 48 percent of its children live in poverty.
The rankings tell us that health is more than having a large medical center in a community and the health care such a facility can deliver. It’s about the entire community and what each of us can do to make where we live healthier and better. In our community one of the lead agencies working as a community coach is the United Way, but that doesn’t let any of us off the hook. We can’t just turn this job over to others. We need to own it. See what other communities have accomplished at: www.rwjf.org/prize.