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Cabell health slightly improved

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 10:42 PM

HUNTINGTON -- While Cabell County moved up a few notches among West Virginia counties in the most recent County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, many health behavior outcomes were still ranked well below national benchmarks.

Among 55 counties in the state, Cabell ranked 41st, an improvement from 46th in 2012 and the best among most local counties, which made up the majority of the rankings' bottom 10. Mason, Wayne and Lincoln counties were Nos. 44, 48 and 49, respectively, with Logan coming in at No. 52 and Mingo at No. 54.

Counties in neighboring states fared about the same -- Boyd County ranked 88th of 120 Kentucky counties, and Lawrence County, Ohio, was No. 87 of 88 Ohio counties. The foundation released its report Wednesday.

The County Health Rankings, which ranks the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states, includes a snapshot of each county detailing health behaviors such as physical inactivity, smoking and drinking. Also considered were such social and economic factors including children in poverty and unemployment. The rankings also take into account physical environment, including the percentage of all restaurants that are fast-food establishments. That variety of statistics allows counties to see how they compare to other counties within their state as well as the nation.

"Cabell County did well in factors such as access to care and quality of care, ranking fifth; however, in health behaviors and social and environmental factors, we were ranked 26th and 35th, respectively," said Dr. Harry Tweel, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. "In many areas, West Virginia and Cabell County were ranked well below the national benchmarks.

"For example, Cabell, when compared to the national benchmarks, was 11.1 percent to 6 percent for low-birth weight babies, 427 to 92 for sexually transmitted infections, 41 to 21 for teen birth rate, 39 percent to 20 percent for single-parent households and 381 to 66 for violent crime rate."

Cabell County also presented a 57 percent prevalence of fast-food restaurants to a national benchmark of 27 percent. In Wayne County, 30 percent of respondents surveyed indicated poor or fair health to 10 percent nationally, as well as twice the occurrence of adult smoking. Lincoln County reported the highest rate of obesity at 39 percent and the highest rate of physician inactivity at 44 percent.

Putnam County residents reported lower instances of poor or fair health, obesity, smoking and excessive drinking than surrounding counties, though still higher than national averages. Mingo County fared the worst of all area counties with the highest rates of reported poor or fair health and lowest percentages of health screenings such as diabetes testing and mammograms.

The rankings also showed West Virginia with a higher than national ratio of patients to primary care physicians, 1,310 patients per physician to the national average of 1,067 patients per physician. Cabell County had an average of 665 patients per physician and Wayne County had a 2,232-to-1 ratio.

Tweel said the health department is doing what it can to improve the health of the community through a variety of initiatives, and thanks its many community agencies and partners for making strides in some of the issues addressed in the rankings. He said the determinants of health for the community extend beyond acute medical care.

"Our Hepatitis B efforts target high-risk individuals, our Change The Future West Virginia initiative, which targets unhealthy lifestyles by concentrating on such things as our community access to healthy foods, the obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol problems, as well as addressing our high smoking rate through community smoking cessation efforts and regulations, limiting infectious spread by restaurants and other food retail establishments, investigating sub-standard and housing complaints and keeping our medical community and the public alerted to new issues and challenges that we as a community need to address," Tweel said. "Your health department works daily to protect each Cabell County resident through these and many other programs."

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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