Blount County fourth healthiest in state
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
Blount County has the fourth healthiest residents in Tennessee, although it ranks 16th in the state in healthy behaviors and 52nd in physical environment.
According to the annual County Health Rankings, released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Blount County ranked well when it came to people living to at least 75 years old.
“Blount County looks good,” said Ginny Kidwell, program director of Tennessee Institute of Public Health. “You were number four, which is a lot to be proud of. Your social and economic factors are great. Those are pretty stationary. You’ve got good schools and good per capita income. You’re number five in that category.”
There is always room for communities to improve, though, Kidwell said. “As you hear when people talk about the county health rankings, most things that impact health occur outside the doctor’s office. They are things we do to ourselves: smoking, excessive drinking, risky behaviors, obesity. With obesity will come diabetes and heart disease and complications that impact quality of life and morbidity.”
There are fewer low-birth-weight babies born in the county, and local residents also report fewer bad-health days than the state average.
Local residents could apparently do better maintaining health habits. According to the report, the county’s rate of adult obesity was 33 percent while the state’s average was 32 percent.
The annual rankings, which assess the overall health of every county in the United States, show that counties in Middle Tennessee have the healthiest residents. Williamson County is followed by Rutherford and Sumner counties. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with the least healthy, are Grundy, Campbell, Hancock, Fentress and Sequatchie.
Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Tennessee by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the numbers of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birth-weight infants.
Among the many health factors they looked at: rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults, and teenage births; the number of uninsured adults, availability of primary care providers, and preventable hospital stays; rates of high school graduation, adults who have attended college, children in poverty; and community safety; access to healthy foods and air pollution levels.
Blount County’s physical environment ranking jumped significantly from 94th in 2012 to 52. The ranking was broken into several factors: It almost matched the state average for fine particulate matter in the air, a 48 percent score for percentage of restaurants that were fast food, and had six recreational facilities per 100,000 people.