Annual rankings show where counties do well and opportunities for improvement

Last updated: March 29. 2014 5:14PM - 1079 Views

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Ashe County is ranked No. 41 among the healthiest counties in N.C., according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings, released March 26 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI).

“These measures offer us another reminder that where we live matters to our health and multiple factors influence the health of our communities,” said Beth Lovette, health director at Appalachian District Health Department (ADHD). “It is clear that we have challenges and opportunities before us as we collaborate with many partners to improve population health.”

The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. The Rankings allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.

According to the 2014 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in N.C., starting with most healthy, are Wake, followed by Watauga, Orange, Union and Camden. The six counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Columbus, Halifax, Scotland, Robeson, Vance and Bertie.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come.”

The rankings highlight some of the key issues that were noted in the most recent State of Health report hosted by Ashe Memorial Hospital in January. The State of Health report focused on many issue including: mental health, obesity, the uninsured population, unemployment and the burden of chronic diseases. The chronic disease are among the leading causes of death in the county like heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease.

The rankings provide county-to-county comparisons within a state. Nationally, this year’s rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties.

Unhealthy counties also have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births as the healthiest counties. This year’s rankings also feature several new measures including housing, transportation and access to mental health providers.

“We know that when we work together, we can achieve great outcomes,” said Jennifer Greene, director of Allied Health Services at the Appalachian District Health Department. “Ashe County has a history of strong community collaboration. The Ashe Health Alliance is a great way to be a part of the solutions needed to improve community health.”

This year, the ADHD and Ashe Health Alliance will be implementing a community health needs assessment process to further gather information with community members and leaders about key health concerns.

To learn more about how to be a part of the Ashe Health Alliance and obtain a copy of the State of Health report in the county visit www.apphealth.com or contact the local office of Appalachian District Health Department at (336) 246-9449.

The rankings are available at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/

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