IOW residents healthier

Published 9:25 am Friday, February 19, 2010

FRANKLIN—According to a recent report, Isle of Wight County residents tend to be healthier than their neighbors in Franklin and Southampton County.

The County Health Rankings report, released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Project and the University of Wisconsin, ranked counties in each state on how healthy people are and how long they live. Communities were also ranked on key factors that affect health such as: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers, rates of high school graduation, rates of violent crime, air pollution levels, liquor store density, unemployment rates and number of children living in poverty.

In health outcomes, which looked at mortality and morbidity, or health-related quality of life, Isle of Wight County was ranked 45th out of 132 counties and independent cities in Virginia ranked in the report — the city of Lexington and Highland County were not ranked. Southampton County ranked 90th and Franklin ranked 123rd.

In health factors, Isle of Wight County was ranked 44th; Southampton County, 96th; and Franklin, 114th.

Dr. Lisa McCoy, director of the Western Tidewater Health District, said there is no definite reason why Isle of Wight’s rankings were higher than its neighbors.

“Because it’s a snapshot in time, it’s hard for me to really tie it to any one thing, or even to put much significance in the fact that Isle of Wight may have been ranked a few slots higher in one particular area than another jurisdiction at that point,” she said.

The Western Tidewater Health District includes Franklin, Suffolk and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. McCoy said the health district has been working with partners in the community to address the same issues laid out in the report.

“That’s the same data that we’ve been looking at over the past several years, so that’s why it wasn’t really a surprise to us. It was just a confirmation that we’re doing what we need to be doing — it’s slow — but we’re bringing a lot of good folks together to work on this,” she said.

McCoy said groups have been working hard to improve the region’s morbidity, infant mortality rate and overall health. In addition, there has been a push to better prepare students to enter school.

“We’ve had a lot of great involvement from the mayor of Franklin, the administrators in Isle of Wight County and Southampton County … they’ve all been very active and supportive of our efforts, so we’ve made some good progress over the last several years,” she said.

While Franklin ranked lower than Southampton and Isle of Wight overall, the city fared much better in the categories of physical environment and clinical care, ranked 10th and 31st in the state, respectively.

“The health of a community depends on many factors, including individual behaviors, the quality of health care, education, jobs and the environment,” said Virginia Health Commissioner, Dr. Karen Remley. “All of us — from public health to business leaders have a role to play in raising awareness about the multiple influences on health.”

McCoy hopes the rankings will encourage more people to get involved in their communities.

“The more people who are aware of the concerns, the more people who can join us in our work and bring their ideas and their resources and their skills to this whole effort,” she said. “This is a community effort, and we need everybody’s help to move forward.”