Dismal health numbers in Southwest Georgia

County health numbers are in for the state and they're not good for Southwest Georgia

County health numbers are in for the state and they're not good for Southwest Georgia. There were 156 counties ranked in the state by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Some of the key health factors that we rank on, include; health behavior such as adult smoking and obesity, access to medical care; social and economic factors such as education unemployment, income, poverty and homicide and the physical environment," said Angela Russell, Associate Researcher at the university.

Out of those 156 counties Dougherty came in 117th.

"There are areas of improvement in terms of adult smoking obesity and high school graduation is much lower than the state of Georgia," said Russell.

But there were also some good things to be said about Dougherty County.

"Dougherty County is doing well in terms of access to clinical care, medical care. They ranked 12th in the state in access to medical care. And ranked in the top half for physical environment so it looks like a lot more people have access to health foods, much more then the state average," said Russell.

Calhoun County got the dubious distinction of being the state's unhealthiest county.

"People attending college is quite low in Calhoun County. Poverty is high, unemployment is high and folks have less access to access to healthy foods and according to our data there is very limited access to recreational facilities in Calhoun County," said Russell.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lee County was ranked 18th. Overall the 14 counties in Southwest Georgia had an average ranking of 97.

And there were two things of note that we found; 1. Counties with higher levels of poverty overall fared worse, 2. One of the common trends in the region and areas for improvement is obesity.

"We tend to see people that see people that have high blood pressure, certainly have obesity, diabetes at risk for heart attacks and strokes and sometimes even a link to cancer," said dietician Julie Davis.

Maybe it's the southern food, but the key to managing weight and staying healthy is all about that clichà -- exercise and portion control.

"If you can learn the right portion size, I can teach you how to eat just about anything. If you want to eat cake is like, you might not like my serving size but you can still have it. So if you learn portion control you can do very well in terms of healthy eating," said Davis.

As the County Health Rankings illustrate, social and economic factors such as education and employment can affect health directly and indirectly, and those negative effects may accumulate over individuals' lifetimes and continue unbroken through generations. The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation says they hope a new Community Grants program will help spark action in communities to address the many factors that influence health.

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