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Two area counties among Va. healthiest







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Frederick, Shenandoah in state's top 15 percent, city of Winchester ranked 62nd

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

When it comes to the health of their residents, Shenandoah and Frederick counties are among the state's top 15 percent.

In the just-released County Health Rankings by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Shenandoah County ranks 17th and Frederick County ranks 18th out of 132 Virginia localities.

Last year, the counties were ranked 24th and 25th, respectively.

Not faring as well was the City of Winchester, which was again rated the 62nd healthiest place in Virginia.

Clarke County placed 31st, down from 28th; Warren County was 40th, up from 54th; and Page County 37th, compared to 48th last year.

Fairfax County was once again rated the healthiest, with the city of Emporia being the least healthy, according to the release. Also among the top 10 are Alexandria, Loudoun County and Albemarle County, and among the lowest 10 are Richmond, Wise County and Petersburg.

This is the second year localities have been ranked, according to a news release from the foundation and the university. The study is "the most comprehensive report of its kind to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live," the release says.

"The Rankings helps everyone see how where people live, learn, work and play influence how healthy they are and how long they live," it says.

The report analyzes deaths before age 75, babies with low birth weights, how many people report fair or poor health, and how many days people report being in poor physical health and poor mental health. Healthy behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment also are assessed, the release says.

"I think it's an important effort, and it's a good thing to see how the different localities within a state compare with each other," Lord Fairfax Health District Director Dr. Charles Devine III said Tuesday. "It provides the different jurisdictions a pretty clear picture of areas that are perhaps worth some extra effort and work."

He offered a possible explanation for the health disparities among neighboring localities.

"Each of the jurisdictions is different, and if you ride through Warren, Clarke and Page counties, each of the jurisdictions in this health district, it's easy to see perhaps reasons why you might expect a difference in each county," Devine said. "It all to me seems to boil down to money available within the individual jurisdictions. It's hard to pay attention to issues like health disparities when you're trying to meet the basic needs, [be] that the county trying to meet its basic needs, or the individuals in the county trying to meet their basic needs."

Counties can address some health issues in ways that might not be too costly, Devine said.

"Encouraging the discontinuation of tobacco use and encouraging exercise and providing information about an appropriate diet is not necessarily terribly expensive, and maybe a good first start," he said.

County health

• The County Health Rankings website, www.countyhealthrankings.org, provides a breakdown of health factors by community in Virginia, including those in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. A glance at each:

Shenandoah County

  • With about one primary care provider for every 1,100 residents and 20 percent of adults without insurance, it ranked 93rd in clinical care.

  • It was number 58 for health behaviors, with 22 percent of adults smoking, 27 percent being obese and 15 percent who drink too much.

  • The county was 60th in social and economic factors, with an 8 percent unemployment rate, 15 percent of children living in poverty, nearly half the population with some college education and just over a quarter of the households headed by a single parent.

Frederick County

  • Residents ranked 76th in healthy behaviors with 22 percent of adults smoking, 29 percent obese and 14 percent drinking excessively.

  • The county was 38th in clinical care with 15 percent of adults lacking health insurance and a ratio of primary care providers to residents of 1 to 1,400.

  • With 55 percent of residents having taken some college courses, one out of 10 children living in poverty and about a quarter of households single-parent, the county is 37th in social and economic factors.

Winchester

  • A teen birth rate of 72 babies per 1,000 girls ages 15-19, compared to 36 per 1,000 across the state, and a chlamydia rate of 514 per 100,000, compared to 405 statewide, the health behaviors ranking was 57.

  • The city ranked 11th in clinical care with 249 residents for each primary care provider and an uninsured adult rate of 22 percent.

  • It was 72nd in social and economic factors with 42 percent of households headed by one parent, 18 percent of kids living in poverty and 75 percent of residents having graduated from high school.

  • With 100 percent access to healthy foods and a rate of 23 recreational facilities per 100,000 residents, Winchester was ranked eighth in terms of its physical environment.

Warren County

  • Nearly one-third of adults -- 32 percent -- smoke, 28 percent are obese and 15 percent drink to excess, giving it a health behaviors ranking of 100.

  • It was 64th in terms of clinical care with 18 percent of adults who are uninsured, and a primary care provider to resident ratio of 1,265 to 1.

  • The county ranked 46th when it comes to morbidity, with 11 percent of residents reporting being in poor or fair health, and with nearly four days of poor physical health in the previous 30 days and close to 4 1/2 poor mental health days.

Clarke County

  • The county was 12th in the state in terms of health behaviors, with 14 percent of adults smoking and 26 percent who were obese. Its teen birth rate was 27 per 1,000 girls ages 15-19.

  • When it comes to clinical care, Clarke County came in 80th, with 16 percent of adults lacking insurance and one primary care doctor to 1,456 residents.

  • It was 17th in social and economic factors. Ninety-five percent of the population has graduated from high school, there is a 6 percent unemployment rate, and a 9 percent child poverty rate.

Page County

  • The county was 111th in clinical care with nearly 20 percent of adults without insurance and more than 1,500 residents to every primary care provider.

  • It was number 29 for mortality, with a death-before-75 rate of 6,521 per 100,000, compared to the state's rate of 6,872 per 100,000.

  • Social and economic factors also came in at 111. The unemployment rate is nearly 12 percent, 21 percent of children are impoverished, 35 percent of households are single-parent and the percentage of people with a high school diploma is 75.



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