Monday, February 22, 2010

Edgecombe Near the Bottom in Health Report

Although it's economic struggles that usually get the most attention in Edgecombe County, the population is also facing a health crisis. A new report from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides additional evidence of the state-of-affairs in a nationwide check-up of Americans broken down on a county-by-county level. Of North Carolina's 100 counties, Edgecombe ranks 94th in overall Health Outcomes.

According to the report, the way the people of Edgecombe County approach healthy lifestyles are having a strong influence on the overall score. In the category of "Health Behaviors," a measure that includes things like obesity and adult smoking rates, Edgecombe ranks 100th--the worst in North Carolina. The report found 38% of Edgecombe's people are obese (NC Average is 29%) and 30% of adults smoke (NC Average is 23%).

Read Edgecombe's full health report card

As you might expect, the issue is more than casually connected to matters of economics. Of the bottom 10 counties in the report, only Martin County (at 19.8%) has a poverty level below 20 percent. Some of the bottom 10 counties have more than 25 percent of their people living below the poverty line, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Not surprisingly, the healthiest counties are the most economically successful ones, places like Wake, Mecklenburg and New Hanover Counties.

As Edgecombe County continues its efforts to recruit new industries, it's poor showing in health surveys could be a substantial hindrance. "Many corporations look at the obesity rate in the community as one of their crucial factors in deciding where to locate there," says Dr. Jim Johnson, of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill. "They use the incidences of obesity as a surrogate measure for health care costs and productivity."

Poor health and high unemployment have become unfortunate ways of life in Edgecombe County. As this research from the University of Wisconsin proves, they are problems that are becoming increasingly connected and could loom largely in Edgecombe's long-term prosperity.


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