LUMBERTON — Robeson County is dead last in North Carolina when it comes to health — again.
That is the finding of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2018 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report for all 100 North Carolina counties, which was released Wednesday. The New Jersey-based foundation, a philanthropy dedicated to health, scored Robeson County’s overall health last out of all North Carolina counties for the third straight year.
But, that’s not to say health factors in Robeson County aren’t improving, according to the county Health Department’s director.
“Smoking is way too high but it has declined,” Bill Smith said. “Teen pregnancy and infant mortality rates are dramatically less. We will never match the best counties anymore than North Carolina can ever match the best states. There are too many givens that have to be overcome.”
The report is the foundation’s eighth annual study. Robeson County has never scored better than 95th, which happened in 2015. In 2016 and 2017 the health outcome score was 100th. It was 97th in 2014, 97th in 2013, 99th in 2012, and 98th in 2011.
The report was compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The County Health Rankings measure the health of county populations in all 50 states based on more than 30 factors, including obesity, tobacco use, premature death, physical inactivity and access to clinical care.
Robeson County was last in North Carolina in quality of life, health factors, health behaviours, and clinical care; 99th in length of life; 97th in social and economic factors; and 72nd in physical environment. The only improvement from the 2017 report was in physical environment, which was scored at 95th this past year.
“In North Carolina, the worst counties are as similarly common as the best counties are. The worst counties are the poorest counties economically and the best are the most economically affluent,” Smith said. “Wealthier counties have better transportation, better jobs, better education systems, more health providers and much better property values. This translates to better opportunity for good health.
“But that being said it is not an acceptable reason for people in the lesser counties to smoke, be sedentary, have poor diets, not seek preventive health services, not parent properly, etc. These are individual options that have been chosen.”
Factors used in determining the report’s county rankings include infant mortality rates, smoking rates, obesity, physical inactivity, percentage of children in poverty, number of health providers, access to exercise opportunities, and violent crime.
“Some of the parameters are county specific measures but others are from regional data,” Smith said. “You would expect very little change year to year. Certainly the county has progressed in fresh food provision, walking trails and parks over the years.”
Rankings for adjacent counties were Hoke, 49th; Cumberland, 75th; Bladen, 95th; Columbus, 96th; and Scotland, 99th.
Wake County was ranked the healthiest county in the state.
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