Franklin improves in state health statistics

Published 8:59 am Friday, March 29, 2013


FRANKLIN—Franklin is no longer considered the fifth sickest locality in Virginia, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Isle of Wight County ranks in the top third at 36th.

Franklin now ranks 123rd out of 133 Virginia cities and counties in health outcomes, as compared to 127th in 2012, which can be attributed to the city’s decrease in teen birth rate and better management of chronic illnesses, said Dr. Nancy Welch, director of the Western Tidewater Health District.

“From a health perspective, the decrease in teen birth is a very good thing,” Welch said. “Teens are at higher risk of prematurity and low birth rate, greater chance of socioeconomic issues to give the child what they need.”

The same study ranks Southampton County 105th in health outcomes.

While the mortality rate, premature death, in Franklin and Isle of Wight fell, each locality in Western Tidewater’s morbidity rate, actual health, rose this year, Dr. Welch says this is not always a bad thing.

“These numbers show that people are living longer and we are doing something right in terms of chronic health management,” she said. “This is absolutely an area that we need to focus on in the future to improve these scores.”

“Public health and the health care community play an important role in leading the way to sustaining healthy communities,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Romero, MD.

Franklin’s unemployment rate has improved to 11.3 percent, still higher than the state average of 6.2 percent and also higher than neighboring localities – Southampton County at 8.6 percent and Isle of Wight County at 6.5 percent.

In addition, 53 percent of Franklin’s children are living in single parent homes, compared to 64 percent two years ago and this year’s state average of 30 percent. Southampton is at 35 percent and Isle of Wight is at 26 percent.

“That is a definite improvement in single parent numbers,” said Welch, a single parent herself. “It is a lot harder to provide things that children need in a single parent household. When you have two parents they are able to provide a little easier for food, as well as day to day necessities.”

Franklin leads both Isle of Wight and Southampton in the ratio of patients to primary care physicians in a locality at 539 to 1, compared to 6,192 to 1 in Southampton and 1,961 to 1 in Isle of Wight.

“So much of what influences good health happens outside of the physician’s office,” Romero said. “What we eat, the safety of our communities, how much family and social support we have and our level of education and understanding all influence our health and well-being.”

Isle of Wight has a high number of smokers at 21 percent, which is three percentage points higher than the state average and will contribute to future health rankings.

In addition, 32 percent of Franklin residents are considered obese, which is four percentage points higher than the state average.

Southampton is at 29 percent adult obesity and 21 percent are smokers. In Isle of Wight, 14 percent of adults are smokers and 31 percent are obese.

“It takes the combined efforts of businesses, health care providers, government, consumers, local health departments and community leaders to create a healthier Commonwealth,” Romero said. “Using the Rankings & Roadmaps, together we can find ways and create opportunities to help Virginians live longer, healthier lives.”

According to the 2013 rankings, the five healthiest localities in Virginia, starting with most healthy, are Fairfax County, followed by Loudoun, Arlington, Albemarle and York counties. The five localities in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are the city of Petersburg, followed by Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson and Henry counties.