Survey ranks localities by health

March 26, 2015

Arlington County is the healthiest county in Virginia while Tazewell County is at the bottom of the list, according to an annual report on the health of the nation’s counties and municipalities. 

The report ranked Martinsville and Henry County, as well as some other localities in the region, near the bottom of the barrel in Virginia. Franklin County and Pittsylvania County fared significantly higher.

The sixth annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday ranked Albemarle County as the second healthiest county, followed by Fairfax, Loudoun and York counties. Henry, Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise were among the least healthy counties. 

Among municipalities, Alexandria was ranked first, followed by Manassas, Falls Church and Poquoson. At the bottom was Petersburg, followed by Martinsville, Hopewell and Danville.

Broadly speaking, the annual study ranks localities according to health outcomes, which is based on length of life and quality of life, and health factors. 

For health outcomes, Martinsville was ranked overall at 128 of Virginia’s 133 localities, and Henry County was ranked 125; Martinsville was ranked 130 for length of life and 102 for quality of life, and Henry County was ranked 123 for length of life and 123 for quality of life.

Danville was ranked overall at 126, and Patrick County was ranked 120. Franklin County and Pittsylvania County ranked significantly higher — 70 for Franklin and 79 for Pittsylvania. 

Health factors include four categories — health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Each category includes data on specific measurements. For example, social and economic factors, which accounts for 40 percent of the health factors ranking, includes such factors as education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety. Health behaviors, which accounts for 30 percent of the ranking, includes tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, and sexual activity.

As far as health factors, Martinsville was ranked overall at 124 and Henry County, 120. In the four category areas, Martinsville was ranked 112 for health behaviors, 84 for clinical care, 129 for social-economic factors, and 105 for physical environment; Henry County ranked 109 for health behaviors, 104 for clinical care, 118 for social-economic factors, and 90 for physical environment. 

Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin measured localities on 30 factors, including education, obesity, diet, exercise, teen births, smoking and alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Counties and municipalities ranked low have more teen births, more smokers and more alcohol-related traffic deaths. The healthiest counties have better access to recreational opportunities, higher college attendance and fewer preventable hospital stays, the report said. 


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