Dallas County health ranks among the worst

Published 6:39pm Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dallas County landed near the bottom in a national study of county health rankings published Wednesday. Ranking No. 60 out of 67 counties, Dallas County scored a healthier ranking only over Fayette, Choctaw, Wilcox, Perry, Hale, Walker and Lowndes County.  

The rankings, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute are compiled after examining 25 factors that influence health including rates of childhood poverty, rates of smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity and percentage of children living in single parent households.

“County health rankings give us an opportunity to look at a variety of different factors that are related to health,” Jackie Holliday, area administrator for Alabama Public Health Area 7 said. “They may not be directly related to health as far as access to care and the variety of things that we normally consider, but it gives us an opportunity to look at where we live and where we learn and where we work and where we play, and how those influences can be healthy or unhealthy on how we live.”

Holliday said by looking at things like having a job, a good education, access to healthy food, a safe place to live and work, all those things can affect how healthy the community is.

“It’s about lifestyle,” Stacey Adams of the Alabama Department of Public Health, who serves as communities coordinator for Public Health Area 7 said, addressing the county’s poor health ranking. “It’s about lifestyle and choices that you make in terms of nutrition and physical activity and tobacco use and exposure — those are three things to think about. There are places for people to be active, it’s just making time out of everyone’s busy schedules to do that.”

Adams suggested that Dallas County residents take advantage of the resources that are already available.

“People think that maybe they have to join and pay membership somewhere to be active, but you really don’t. You can walk in your neighborhood; you can walk in the walking paths that are here — there’s some in the city and there’s some in the county. And we have a great state park that’s free to the public for people to use that has hiking trails,” she said mentioning ways to improve the county’s health ranking. “Also, [we can] make better choices in what we consume. Sometimes there’s a myth associated with healthy eating, that maybe it’s more expensive. But that’s not actually the case, it’s just choices and portion sizes and what you select.”

Adams said the changes aren’t going to happen over night, but there are people and agencies that want to make Dallas County a healthier community.

“We’re working to do that, but it’s just going to be baby steps,” she said. “We just have to educate and make people aware of what is available and encourage them to make good choices.”

“The County Health Rankings can be put to use right away by leaders in government, business, health care and every citizen motivated to work together to create a culture of health in their community,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To view a full breakdown of the county health rankings visit countyhealthrankings.org.

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