Washington County, Florida Health Index Scores Next To Last In The State
With a population of just under 25,000, Washington County, Florida recently ranked next to last, second only to Union County, as one of the most unhealthy counties in Florida, with an age-adjusted premature mortality rate almost 65% higher than the state average.
At first glance the statistics do not necessarily alarm- after all, somebody has to be last- especially with a median income in Washington County of only $11,000 less than the state average, and with only 24% uninsured adults and 10% uninsured children, both significantly less than the state average.
However, with an almost 85% rural population, 16% of whom are over 65 years of age and 14% of whom have diabetes, Washington County is reported to have 10 homicides per year, 30 motor vehicle deaths per year and 17 drug poisoning fatalities per year, as well as a questionably ‘limited access to healthy foods’, almost quadruple the average of the state.
Washington County residents experience almost double the state average number of poor physical and mental health days, as well as 70% more obesity, 35% more smokers and 60% more teen births, resulting in 60% more premature deaths and 25% more preventable hospital stay days then the state average.
Interestingly, Washington County also enjoys less violent crime, fewer children in single-parent households, 50% less excessive drinking (with commensurately fewer alcohol-related automotive deaths) and fewer sexually-transmitted diseases than the state average.
Also of interest is that Washington County is home to 20% fewer uninsured residents, twice the number of primary care physicians and dentists and seven times the number of mental health providers, compared to the state average.
The result is something of an enigma, in that this region enjoys clean air and water, access to locally-grown healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables (despite the report to the contrary) with a very large number of health care providers and a large percentage of insured residents.
As mentioned, somebody has to be last and this statistic in and of itself is not the problem. The bigger question would be, ‘With a preponderance of insured people surrounded by a huge number of health care providers, clean air and fresh food, why do we rank so low?’
The bottom line is that you cannot protect people from themselves, although the government entities have been collectively trying to do just that for some time now, but to no avail, resulting in the justification of Darwin’s theory.
It would, however, appear that in the absence of need for additional insurance or health providers, the missing link might simply be education- inclusive of birth control, prudent dietary habits and a regular healthcare regime.
Karen Johnson, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Washington County recently discussed some of this with the Chipley Kiwanis Club, with the hope that there would be forthcoming actionable response to this situation.
Johnson also recently appeared on Real Florida Magazine television show to discuss influenza, rabies and other health issues in the area.
We will be covering this subject over time, drilling down to better evaluate these reports, and explore, along with health care providers, the opportunities available to Washington County, Florida to improve this dismal ranking.
See more information, photos and interviews about this and other news stories at www.RealFloridaMagazine.org.
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