Good, Bad News on Health Front
When it comes to the health of Moore Countians, there's good news and bad news.
The encouraging tidings, released the other day, are that Moore County received a relatively high ranking in a report compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute.
The Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) County Health Rankings report ranks Moore County ninth-highest among North Carolina's 100 counties in "health factors" and 31st-highest in "health outcomes."
But Robert Wittmann, Moore County health director, warns against getting too excited about that.
"Although Moore County ranks in the top quarter of North Carolina counties for many of the measures used in this report," Wittmann says, "the data show that there is work to do to address barriers to good health and help our citizens lead healthier lives."
Addressing Priority Issues
The "health factors" segment of the study measured individual health behaviors, quality of health care, education and jobs, access to healthy foods and quality of the air. "Health outcomes" measured such things as the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people reporting their health as fair or poor, the percentage reporting poor physical and poor mental health and the rate of low-birth-weight infants.
County Health Rankings is said to be the first report to calculate the overall health of the counties in all 50 states by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
The new figures, putting Moore County in a national context, will supplement findings already being generated by a Community Health Assessment initiated in 2009 by the Moore County Health Department and MooreHealth Inc. Priority areas selected to be addressed here over a four-year span are access to health care, -obesity prevention, substance abuse prevention and teen pregnancy prevention.
Wittmann said the findings of the MATCH County Health Rankings will provide additional information for the MooreHealth Inc. committees to use in the planning process to address priority health issues. More information about the MATCH County Health Rankings is available at www.countyhealthrankings. org. Anyone interested in learning how to become involved in MooreHealth initiatives may call (910) 715-1925.
Still Part of That Belt
The bad "news," as a column in this morning's News & Observer of Raleigh reminded us, is that Moore County remains squarely in America's so-called Stroke Belt. It even borders on the region collectively known as the "Stroke Belt Buckle." This is not a proud distinction.
An average of 59 North Carolinians die each day from stroke or heart attack. Besides North Carolina, the Stroke Belt, where the number of stroke deaths is -substantially higher than the national average, also includes five other states: Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana Mississippi and Alabama. As for the infamous buckle, it includes 153 counties in the coastal sections of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia where -cardiovascular health is even worse.
There is a bit of good news within the bad: In the 15 years since the N.C. General Assembly established a Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force, heart disease and stroke rates in the state have declined -somewhat more steeply than in the nation as a whole.
But such progress will remain marginal until more of us individually start living healthier lives. For starters, that means eating better, exercising more and smoking less.
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