KINGSPORT — Southwest Virginia localities are among the worst in the state in terms of health outcomes, according to the fourth annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps released Wednesday.
The 2013 rankings, which were compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, show that most of Virginia's unhealthy counties and cities are located in the Southwest and Southside portions of the state, while the healthiest are located mainly in the northern urban areas of the state.
"Public health and the health care community play an important role in leading the way to sustaining healthy communities," State Health Commissioner Cynthia C. Romero, MD, FAAFP said in a release. "But so much of what influences good health happens outside of the physician’s office. What we eat, the safety of our communities, how much family and social support we have and our level of education and understanding all influence our health and well being."
The state's five localities in the poorest health were the city of Petersburg, Tazewell County, Buchanan County, Dickenson County and Henry County.
Fairfax and Alexandria counties were the two healthiest locales in Virginia.
Other counties ranked at the bottom in terms of health outcomes were Wise County (124 of 133 localities), Scott County (120), Lee County (115) and the city of Norton (94). Russell County was just outside the bottom five with a ranking of 127, while Washington County was ranked at 95 and the city of Bristol at 78.
The County Health Rankings ranks the overall health of nearly every locality in all 50 states, using a standard method to measure how healthy people are and how long they live, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Localities’ health were ranked on two sets of measures — health outcomes, including length and quality of life), and weighted health factors.
Those include health behaviors (30 percent), access to and quality of clinical care (20 percent), social and economic factors (40 percent), and the physical environment (10 percent).
The 2013 Rankings also include data on access to dental care and drinking water safety in its evaluation of clinical care and physical environment for the first time.
In terms of drinking water safety, Scott County had 0 percent of its population exposed to water exceeding a violation limit during 2012 while Lee County had 23 percent of its population and Wise County had 37 percent of its population exposed.
All three localities ranked near the bottom, however, in a measure of physical environment. Scott County's ranking of 125 was the worst among local counties while Norton was ranked 105 and Lee County and Wise County were ranked 109 and 110, respectively.