Two Southeast Arkansas counties are among the least healthy counties in a state ranked among the least healthy in the nation, according to two separate health reports.
Arkansas, according to a United Health Foundation report, is 48th healthiest state in the nation. And Chicot and Desha counties are the 68th and 69th healthiest of Arkansas’ 75 counties, according to a recent report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Benton County is the state’s healthiest county. Washington and Faulkner counties claim the second and third spots respectively, with Saline, Boone, Madison, Pike and Sevier counties rounding out the top eight. At the other end of the spectrum, Ouachita County ranks as the least healthy, followed by Phillips, Mississippi, Poinsett, Lafayette, Crittenden, Desha and Chicot counties.
Comparing only Southeast Arkansas counties, Lincoln County ranks as the healthiest at 27th followed closely by Bradley County at 28 while Drew County was ranked 34 and Ashley County was ranked 50.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states.
Nationally, the data revealed that unhealthy counties have more than twice the rate of premature deaths than healthy ones and childhood poverty rates are twice as high in unhealthy counties as the rate is in healthy ones.
Premature death was based on the years of potential life lost before reaching the age of 75 per 100,000 population. The state average is 9,290 and the national average of 5,317. The premature death rate in Southeast Arkansas counties:
Lincoln County — 8,897
Bradley County — 9,604
Drew County — 9,634
Ashley County — 10,381
Chicot County — 11,700
Desha County — 12,344
Comparing morbidity (incidence of illness) rates, Chicot County ranked 75, Desha County ranked 71, Ashley County ranked 52, Lincoln County ranked 47, Drew County ranked 42, and Bradley County ranked 29th.
The rankings allow counties to see how they compare to other counties within the state based on a range of factors that influence health including smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, obesity, education, vehicle crash death rate, sexually transmitted infections, clinical care, and physical environment, which takes into account environmental aspects such as air and water quality, mass transportation and density of fast food establishments.
Comparing behaviors that impact health, Ashley County has the largest percentage of adult smokers at 26 percent, followed by Desha County with 24 percent, Lincoln County with 23 percent and Drew County with 21 percent. Bradley County has the lowest percentage at 17 percent. The state average is 23 percent. Data was not available for Chicot County. The rates were based on 2005 to 2011 data.
Ashley County also has the highest adult obesity rate at 39 percent. Desha and Chicot counties’ adult obesity rates are both 38 percent, while Drew and Lincoln counties’ obesity rates are 36 percent. Bradley County’s adult obesity rate is at the state average of 32 percent. The rates are based on 2009 data.
Excessive alcohol consumption rate in all six counties is lower than the state average of 13 percent. Drew County has the highest rate with 12 percent and Bradley and Lincoln counties have the lowest rates at 4 and 5 percent respectively. The rates are based on 2005-2011 data.
The motor vehicle crash death rate in all six counties is higher than the state average of 23 (per 100,000 population). Desha County has the lowest rate at 24 while Bradley County has the highest at 34. Ashley and Chicot counties’ rates are both 33 while Lincoln County’s is 32 and Drew County’s is 31. The rates are based on 2004-201o data.
The rate of sexually transmitted infections is higher than the state average in five of the six counties. The state average is 529 (per 100,000 population). The rates in Southeast Arkansas are: Desha County at 884, Ashley County at 837, Drew County at 729, Chicot County at 610, Bradley County at 591, and Lincoln County at 368. The rates are based on 2o1o data from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
The teen birth rate is higher than the state average in five of the six counties. Only Drew County was below the state average of 59 (per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19). Desha County has the highest rate at 87, followed by Bradley County at 77, Chicot County at 75, Ashley County at 67, and Lincoln County at 61. Drew County had the lowest rate at 48. The rates are based on 2004-2010 data.
The report also compared clinical care, ranking Ashley County 31, Drew County 35, Chicot County 38, Lincoln County 47, Desha County 69 and Bradley County 70th of the state’s 75 counties. The rankings were based on the number of primary care physicians and dentists, mammography and diabetic screenings, and uninsured residents.
Drew County has the fewest uninsured residents at 19 percent while Bradley County has the most at 27 percent.
Based on 2011-2o12 data, Chicot County has the best population to primary care physician ratio of 1,073 to 1. At the other end of the spectrum Lincoln County’s population to primary care physician ratio is 14,100 to 1. Bradley County’s is 1,917 to 1, Drew County’s is 2,057 to 1, Desha County’s is 2,164 to 1, and Ashley County’s is 2,730 to 1. The state average is 1,613 to 1.
The population to dentist ratio is higher than the state average in all six counties: Ashley County’s is 2,754 to 1, Bradley County’s is 2,930 to 1, Drew County’s is 3,217 to 1, Chicot County’s is 4,174 to 1, Desha County’s is 6,521 to 1, and Lincoln County’s is 8,773 to 1. The state average is 2,571 to 1.
The report also factored social and economic data, including education, unemployment, children in poverty, social support, children in single-parent households, and violent crime rate.
Drew County has the highest percentage of adults between the ages of 25 and 44 who have attended college and Lincoln County has the lowest. More than half (54 percent) in Drew County have attended college, 46 percent in Desha, 43 percent in Ashley County, 36 percent in Chicot, 33 per cent in Bradley County, and 31 percent in Lincoln County. Statewide 53 percent of the adults in that age group have attended college.
Based on 2011 data, the unemployment rate in all six counties was higher than the state average of 8 percent. Lincoln County had the lowest at 9.4 percent while the other counties’ unemployment rates ranged from 11.1 percent in Bradley County to 11.9 percent in Chicot County.
The percentage of children in poverty in all six counties was higher than the state’s 28 percent. Lincoln County had the lowest with 29 percent, followed by Ashley and Drew counties with 31 percent, Bradley County with 36 percent, and Desha County with 40 percent. Chicot County had the highest at 48 percent.
Chicot County also has the highest percentage of children living in single-parent households. Fifty-six percent of Chicot County’s children live in single-parent households, followed by Lincoln County with 46 percent, Desha County with 45 percent, Drew County with 43 percent, Bradley County with 36 percent and Ashley County with 34 percent. The statewide percentage is 36.
Desha and Chicot counties have the highest violent crime rate among the six counties. The violent crime rate in Desha County was 819 (per 100,000 population) followed closely by Chicot County at 811. The violent crime rate in the other four counties is lower than the state’s rate of 508. Drew County’s violent crime rate was 429, Ashley County’s rate was 306, Bradley County’s rate was 297, and Lincoln County’s rate was 132.
The last criteria used to determine the health rankings was physical environment which factored drinking water safety, access to recreational facilities, limited access to healthy foods, fast food restaurants and daily fine particulate matter (air pollutants emitted from sources such as forest fires, gases emitted from power plants, industries, automobiles) – based on 2008 data
The percentage of the population getting water from public water systems with at least one health-based violation during 2012 ranged from 43 percent in Lincoln County to 0 in Bradley and Chicot counties. Statewide, it was nine percent of the population, in Ashley and Drew counties it was four percent and in Desha County it was two percent of the population. Data for this ranking was obtained from EPA.
Citing the United States Department of Agriculture, the report indicates that 21 percent of the Lincoln County population, 16 percent of the Desha County population, 11 percent of the Ashley County population, seven percent of the Drew County population, five percent of the Bradley County population and three percent of the Chicot County population have limited access to healthy foods because they are low income and don’t live near a grocery store. The state percentage is eight.
The final criteria used in the County Health Rankings report was the percentage of all restaurants that are fast food establishments.
Ashley and Drew counties were both above the state average of 50 percent. Fifty-nine percent of all restaurants in Ashley County and 54 percent of the restaurants in Drew County are fast food establishments. Just under the state average is Desha (47 percent), Chicot (45 percent), and Bradley (44 percent) counties . Lincoln County was much lower at 13 percent.
The rankings include a snapshot of each county in Arkansas with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. There are also new county-level trend graphs detailing change over time for several of the measures, including children in poverty, unemployment, and quality of care.
“Since their introduction in 2009, the County Health Rankings have provided Arkansas counties with some powerful tools to help guide local efforts as they improve our overall health and well-being,” said Dr. Paul K. Halverson, director of the Arkansas Department of Health and state health officer. “Initiatives to reduce tobacco use, enhance injury-prevention efforts and fight obesity and chronic disease have been shaped by what these findings can tell policy makers at the county level. We know that it can mean more to measure our statistical information with that of our own neighbors, instead of comparing ourselves to other states or national indicators. That really helps us see what is working well in our own home state, where we face our own set of healthcare challenges. The County Health Rankings provide a clear picture of our strengths as well as our opportunities for improvement.”