County hits bottom in health rankings
by Ralph B. Davis
While it has poor showings in just about every measurable health statistic of the past decade, Floyd County hit a new low Wednesday, when it was ranked dead last in overall health among the state’s 120 counties.
The county received the bad news with the release of the latest County Health Rankings, compiled annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Eastern Kentucky as a whole fared worse than the rest of the state, with 19 of the bottom 20 counties lying east of I-75. Other nearby county rankings included Knott County at 103; Magoffin, 104; Johnson, 108; Martin, 114; Pike, 115; and Perry, 119.
Still, Floyd County scored below all the rest. Among factors playing a role in the county’s low ranking were:
• A ranking of 116 in terms of mortality. Statistically speaking, Floyd Countians lose 14,472 years of life before age 75 per 100,000 people. That is nearly double the state rate and triple the national rate, and 40 percent higher than the county’s rate in 2001.
• A ranking of 118 in terms of morbidity, with Floyd Countians reporting more poor health days, poor mental health days and general poor health overall. The county also reports 11.4 percent of babies born at low birthweight, compared to 9.1 percent statewide and 6 percent nationally.
• A ranking of 108 in terms of health behaviors. Floyd County reports higher rates of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, motor vehicle crash deaths and teen births than both the state and national averages.
• A ranking of 112 in terms of physical environment, with limited access to healthy foods and recreational facilities and high rates of unsafe water and fast-food restaurants.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said all levels of government have a role to play in improving community health.
“As important as local action is, our state elected officials must also shoulder the responsibility for improving the health of all Kentuckians,” Brooks said. “We need schools to embrace their role in children’s physical and mental well-being. We need lawmakers to muster the courage to pass a statewide smoke-free law. And, until we improve the economic stability of Kentucky families through such provisions as a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit, we are not going to sufficiently improve health.”
Floyd County’s ranking is just the latest in a long string of poor health reports. Last year, the county was cited as having the 10th highest decrease in male life expectancy, according to statistics compiled by University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
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