Union County among state’s healthiest

County ranks third in North Carolina

by Brian Carlton

A recent set of reports ranks Union County as the third healthiest in the state, ahead of Mecklenburg and other surrounding areas. The data comes from the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, which took on a project earlier this year to analyze information and rank each state and the counties within it, in an attempt to show there’s more to being healthy than just doctor visits.

“The rankings really show us with solid data that there is a lot more to health than health care,” County Health Rankings project director Patrick Remington said. Remington is the Associate Dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. “Where we live, learn, work and play affect our health, and we need to use the information from the rankings to shine a spotlight on where we need to improve so we can take action to address our problems.”

Rankings for each county were based on the latest available data. Union County ranked lower than the state in several categories. The study showed in Union County, 18 percent of residents smoke, lower than the state’s 22 percent average rate. Additionally, 28 percent of county residents classified as obese, down slightly from the state’s average rate of 29 percent. Union also had just under half the state average when it came to sexually transmitted diseases, with 212 reported in 2010. The state average was 414 cases per county.

Union County fell short in some categories however. In the county, statistics show only one primary care provider for every 1,298 residents. That’s far higher than the state average, which is one for every 859.

Researchers determined the rankings by using five measures: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who reported being in fair or poor health; the number of days in poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants. Researchers then looked at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

“It’s hard to lead a healthy life if you don’t live in a healthy community,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The County Health Rankings are an annual check-up for communities to know how healthy they are and where they can improve. We hope that policymakers, businesses, educators, public health departments and community residents will use the rankings to develop solutions to help people live healthier lives.”

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