Report: Durham health ranking unchanged

Mar. 26, 2014 @ 05:14 PM

Durham County remains the 17th healthiest among North Carolina counties, according to a report of “County Health Rankings” released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The findings left Durham leaders disappointed.
Since the inception of the “County Health Rankings,” Durham has consistently ranked in the top 25 percent of counties in North Carolina. However, compared to its Triangle neighbors Wake and Orange, it has consistently lagged.
“It is difficult to recognize that Durham County’s health ranking remains unchanged from last year,” said Durham County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Michael D. Page. “In the City of Medicine, a community that was one of the first to pass a no-smoking ordinance for its public buildings, sidewalks and beyond, I am disappointed that we are not more in line with our regional neighbors.”
“I highlighted many community health collaboratives on Monday evening during my State of the County Address. Certainly we must redouble our efforts to alleviate poverty, and do more with chronic-disease management for our residents. It is our challenge to also help our under- and uninsured residents benefit from the Affordable Care Act in order to address health concerns at its earliest stages,” Page said.
City officials also expressed concern.
“Improving health outcomes among our residents is perhaps a major reason why reducing poverty in Durham should be at the top of our agenda as a community,” said Durham Mayor Bill Bell. “The fact that Durham has not moved the needle, as much as we would like, towards improving health of residents, should be a call to action for us all. The overall community has to be involved to reduce poverty to help us move forward, whether it’s from an education, jobs or health perspective.”
The “County Health Rankings” model emphasizes health factors that influence the health of the county. These scientifically weighted factors are health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment.
“When you dig deeper into the numbers, among the factors that influence health included in the ‘County Health Rankings,’ clinical care is weighted at 20 percent, while social and economic factors are weighted as 40 percent,” Durham County Public Health Director Gayle B. Harris said. “Those social and economic factors include education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety. Clearly, this model re-emphasizes the importance of the new initiatives recently announced by Mayor Bell and County Commission Chairman Page. By working together, we have the opportunity to improve the health of our community.”
Now in its fifth year, the “County Health Rankings” show that how long and how well people live depends on multiple factors beyond their access to medical care. The rankings examine 25 physical and social factors that affect health, as well as health outcomes, including rates of childhood poverty, rates of smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity, and percentages of children living in single parent households.
The complete report can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The 2013 State of the County Health report, 2011 Community Health Assessment and local health resource guides and links are available on the Partnership for a Healthy Durham’s website, www.healthydurham.org.