The County Health Rankings have been released for 2012, and Sampson is again in the bottom third of North Carolina’s 100 counties in both health outcomes and health factors, but is showing improvement in the latter.
Sampson County health director Wanda Robinson recently presented the numbers to the local Health Board and will offer them to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners at an upcoming meeting. According to the rankings, Sampson County is 74th in the state in health outcomes and ranks 69th in health factors.
“Health outcomes represent how healthy a county is, while health factors represent what influences the health of a county,” Robinson noted. “This does give us an idea of where we are with other counties in terms of health outcomes and health factors.”
While health outcomes have gotten worse in the last two years, specifically in terms of the mortality rate, health factors have actually steadily improved in every sub-category, the rankings study shows.
As part of the study, nearly every county in all 50 states was scrutinized using a variety of measures that affect health and how various factors impact the health and life-span of people in certain communities. Each county received a summary rank for each of two general categories — health factors and health outcomes — as well as rankings for four different types of health factors.
In the rankings, “health outcomes” represent how healthy a county is, measuring how long people live (mortality) and how healthy people feel while alive (morbidity), with mortality measured by premature death and morbidity measured by illness rates and low birth weight. “Health factors” represent what influences the health of a county, including four separate criteria: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment factors.
The rankings, launched in 2010, have offered a standard study of how healthy or unhealthy the county is, something that was tough to gauge on a county-to-county basis before then, Robinson said. Published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the rankings are based on the latest data publicly available for each county.
Robinson said the annual study offers a “snapshot” of how healthy Sampson is and how it stacks up with other counties. She called the results for 2012 “pretty interesting.”
She noted Sampson’s rank of 74 in health outcomes was lower when compared to 67 in 2010.
“So we’ve gotten a little worse,” said Robinson. “You go up in number, you’re not doing quite as well.”
On the flip side, the rank of 69 in health factors was up from 82 just two years ago.
“So we did do a little better as far as that’s concerned,” she noted.
Included in the health outcomes, the morbidity ranking improved over 2011 in Sampson, from 54 last year to 47 in 2012, while the mortality ranking has dropped, from 73 last year to 83 in 2012, causing the overall health outcome ranking to drop from 67 in 2010, to 71 in 2011 and again to 74 in 2012.
According to the 2012 health rankings, the mortality rate in Sampson County is much higher than the state and national averages. That rate, measuring years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population, shows Sampson at 10,262, ranking 83rd in North Carolina. That compares to 7,961 for the state and 5,466 nationally.
Also under health outcomes, Sampson ranked in the middle of the state, at 47th, in morbidity. Among notable criteria, approximately 25 percent of the county’s population was listed as having poor or fair health, compared to 10 percent nationally and 18 percent in the state. A low birth weight percentage of 9.4 percent also trended above national (6 percent) and state (9.1 percent) averages.
In coming to the overall rankings for the two main categories, the weights for health outcomes are split 50-50 between mortality and morbidity. The four categories in health factors are weighted differently: health behaviors at 30 percent, clinical care at 20 percent, social and economic factors at 40 percent and physical environment at 10 percent.
Health behaviors encompass alcohol use, diet and exercise, sexual activity and tobacco use; clinical care includes access to, and quality of, care; social and economic factors include community safety, education, employment, family and social support and income; and physical environment takes into account infrastructure, facilities and environmental quality.
Among health factors, health behavior categories of adult obesity, motor vehicle crash death rate and teen birth rate each trended well above state and national averages, according to the numbers.
Likewise, under social and economic factors, Sampson had a higher number of children in poverty and children in single-parent households as compared to the state and nation. As far as physical environment, access to recreational facilities and healthy foods was lower than the state and nation, while more than half local restaurants in Sampson are fast food establishments, well above the state and national numbers, according to the study.
While Sampson’s numbers still are above state and national figures in notable categories, the county’s health factors ranking has improved in each category since the study’s inception. Overall, Sampson’s health factors ranking has improved from 82nd out of 100 counties in 2010 to 80 last year and 69 in 2012.
Included in that are rankings for Sampson of 64 in health behaviors (improved from 86 in 2010 and 80 in 2011); 81 in clinical care (up from 91 in 2010 and 82 in 2011); 62 in social and economic (up from 72 in both 2010 and 2011); and 35 in physical environment (up from 52 last year).
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.