Washington County ranks 65th in healthy residents

Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 01:03 PM.

PANAMA CITY— Only two counties in the state are less healthy than Washington County, according to rankings released by a nonprofit organization Wednesday. Bay and other Panhandle counties finished closer to the middle of the pack.

The “2013 County Health Rankings” outlined several factors, which, directly or indirectly, impact residents’ overall well-being. These included smoking, drinking, obesity, teen pregnancy and even high school graduation. The study was conducted as a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. It included nearly every county in the U.S.

“It’s not a huge surprise,” Rick Davis said of Washington County’s near-bottom ranking, 65th out of 67 counties.

As the county’s health department administrator, Davis is aware Washington County has been ranked poorly for the last three or four years, remaining in the bottom 10. Last year it was 64th.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that the population’s health in Washington County and most small, rural counties is below average for the state,” he said.

Washington County performed worse than the state average in nearly every category. For example, 25 percent of its residents are in “poor or fair health,” compared to 16 percent statewide and 17 percent in Bay County. About 9 percent of the county’s babies are born with a low birth weight, compared to 8.7 percent statewide and 8.4 percent in Bay County.

Twenty-seven percent of the county’s adults smoke; 19 percent smoke statewide and 22 percent do in Bay County. Thirty-six percent of the county’s adults are obese, compared with 26 percent statewide and 27 percent in Bay County.

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