St. Charles County is the healthiest in the state

6:52 AM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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By Dana Dean

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KSDK) -- County-by-county health rankings have just been released. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation calls St. Charles County the healthiest in the state of Missouri.

The rankings give us a peek inside the health and well-being of all counties in Missouri and Illinois. Some factors include childhood poverty, rates of smoking, and obesity levels.

According to the rankings, St. Charles County is the healthiest county in Missouri. St. Louis County is 20th. Jefferson County is 44th. St. Louis City is towards the bottom of the list and ranks 110th. Dunklin County is last at 115th.

The St. Charles County executive believes several factors help them be number one in the state for four years straight. Steve Ehlmann says a large percentage of workers have a job that provides health insurance, fewer people are addicted to drugs, and there are fewer single parent families.

"We teach our kids and encourage each other to have solid families for a father and a mother and when tragedy comes and there is a divorce, our courts do a very good job of making sure the children of those families are supported by both parents," Ehlmann said.

Here is a look at how counties ranked in Illinois. Monroe County is the 21st healthiest county in Illinois. Jersey County is 37th. Macoupon is 45th. Madison County is 83rd. St. Clair County is 88th.

The City of St. Louis Department of Health spokesperson Harold L. Bailey, Jr. released the following information about the rankings.

"We believe the rankings provide a limited means of some comparison with other counties in Missouri but does not stand alone as a reliable source for measuring the health status of St. Louis Residents," Pamela Rice Walker, BS, MPA, CPHA, St. Louis City Health Director, said.

The RWJ County Health rankings are a tool we can use to identify the communities perception of their overall health. Although the report underscores how socioeconomic indicators, such as education, employment, income, family/social support and community safety impact public health, a more reliable report for the St. Louis Region is the Regional Health Commission's Report, "A Decade Review of Health Status."

The RHC report shows that for St. Louis City since 2000:

-Overall mortality rates decreased 14%
-Heart disease mortality decreased 26%
-Incidence of the top four types of cancer decreased by an average of almost 10%
-Deaths due to stroke decreased 36%
-Diabetes deaths decreased 11%
-Infant mortality is down 7%
-Childhood lead poisoning prevalence has fallen by 80%
-Incidence of gonorrhea is down 41%
-6% fewer children with asthma on Medicaid are requiring acute care in a hospital setting

The Robert Woods Johnson report has several other limitations, including but not limited to:

Much of the data is from 2009 or older; for example, the air pollution data is six years old (from 2007);

It provides a limited assessment of the social indicators of health for a community, including such things as poverty and automobile use;

It also uses self reported data including how a person feels about their own health, their alcohol or tobacco use and their sexual activity. The self-reported data is from a sampling of 5,135 people combined in St. Louis and Kansas City, so it is a very small sample.

It also includes a complicated formula on years of life lost weighted for persons who died prior to 75 years of age rather than life expectancy.

See the full report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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