By Lazaro Aleman
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Madison County was ranked among the state’s least healthy counties, according to the findings of a national survey that compares counties across the country on 29 factors that affect health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, unemployment, physical inactivity and access to healthy food.
The 5th edition of the County Health Rankings, jointly released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) on March 26, is based on 2012 data. It ranks Madison County in 56th place out of Florida’s 67 counties, with St. Johns County at number one as Florida’s healthiest county.
The report makes the point that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives than people living in the healthiest counties; and that the number of teen births and children living in poverty are also twice as many in the least healthy counties as the healthier counties.
The report underscores that “much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office” and that factors such as education, jobs, income and environment play a critical role in people’s health and longevity.
The rankings were complied using county-level measures from a variety of national data sources and resulted in two overall ranks for every county in United States. The two overall ranks are listed as health outcomes, or how healthy a county currently is; and health factors, how healthy a county will be in the future.
Madison County ranked 56 in health outcomes and 61 in health factors.
Additionally, the report offers individual county data on a variety of factors that affect health, such as education, access to healthier foods, air pollution levels, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.
According to the report, Madison County ranked 58 in length of life; 61 in quality of life; 51 in health behaviors; 58 in clinical care; 61 in social and economic factors; and 24 in physical environment.
A sampling of the pertinent local data:
- * 18 percent of the population in Madison County is in poor or fair health, compared with10 percent in the top U.S. performers and 16 percent in Florida.
- * 21 percent of adults in Madison County smoke, compared with 14 percent in the top U.S. performers and 18 percent in Florida.
- * 36 percent of adults in Madison County are obese, compared with 25 percent in the top U.S. performers and 26 percent in Florida.
- * 30 percent of people in Madison County are physically inactive, compared with 21 percent in the top U.S. performers and 24 percent in Florida.
- * 47 percent of people in Madison County have access to exercise opportunities, compared with 85 percent in the top U.S. performers and 78 percent in Florida.
- * 39 percent of driving deaths in Madison County are alcohol impaired related, compared with 14 percent in the top U.S. performers and 29 percent in Florida.
- * 23 percent of Madison County residents are uninsured, compared with 11 percent in the top U.S. performers and 25 percent in Florida.
- * For every primary care physician in Madison County, there are 6,372 persons, compared with one physician per 1,051 in the top U.S. performers and one per 1,426 in Florida.
- * 57 percent of high school students in Madison County graduate, compared with 70 percent in Florida (No figures given for the U.S.)
- * 36 percent of children in Madison County live in poverty, compared with 13 percent in the top U.S. performers and 26 percent in Florida.
- * 24 percent of people in Madison County have inadequate social support, compared with 14 percent in the top U.S. performers and 22 percent in Florida.
- * 45 percent of children in Madison County live in single-parent households, compared with 20 percent in the top U.S. performers and 37 percent in Florida.
- * 37 percent of workers in Madison County have long commutes and drive alone, compared with 15 percent in the top U.S. performers and 37 percent in Florida.
- Overall, the report finds that teen birth rates across the nation have decreased about 25 percent since 2007; that the rate of preventable hospital stays decreased about 20 percent from 2003 to 2011; that smoking rates dropped from 21 percent to 18 percent between 2005 and 2012; and that completion of at least some college increased from 59 percent to 64 percent between 2005 and 2012.
- Others of the report’s overall findings:
- * Almost one in five households in the United States are overcrowded and pose a severe cost burden or provide inadequate facilities for cooking, cleaning or bathing, with mention of parts of the South in particular.
- * More than three-quarters of U.S. workers drive to work alone and 33 percent drive longer than half an hour each way, the connection to health being that driving contributes to physical inactivity, obesity and pollution.
- * People in many parts of the country face food insecurity (or the threat of hunger) and limited access to healthy foods.
- * The ability of mental health providers in the healthiest counties in each state is 1.3 times higher than in the least healthy counties.
- * Access to parks or recreational facilities in the healthiest counties is 1.4 times higher than in the least healthy counties.