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Posted: March 30, 2011 4:21 p.m.

Newton lags in county health rankings

Newton County is a leader in Georgia in some unfortunate categories when it comes to health: Obesity, smoking, teen birth rate and in the number of sexually transmitted disease cases, according to a health survey released today.

According to the County Health Rankings released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Newton County ranked 45 out of 156 counties in health outcomes, but 85th in health factors. Rockdale County was 16th in health outcomes, but 31st in health factors.

Factors that weighed down the Newton County score include a high rate of adult smoking (26 percent, compared with a state average of 20 percent), adult obesity (32 percent, compared with a state rate of 28 percent), a high teen birth rate of 62 per 1,000 (55 for Georgia overall) and a sexually transmitted infections rate of 462 per 100,000 (a rate of 447 statewide).

Fayette County was the healthiest in Georgia, placing first in each category, while Calhoun County was last in health outcomes and Hancock County was last in health factors. Three small counties were not ranked.
The rankings are based on factors that effect health, including education, access to healthier food, behavior, income, teen births, pollution and income. The rankings can be seen at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/.

"The Rankings really show us with solid data that there is a lot more to health than health care. Where we live, learn, work and play affect our health, and we need to use the information from the Rankings to shine a spotlight on where we need to improve so we can take action to address our problems," according to a press release statement ffrom Dr. Patrick Remington, director of the County Health Rankings project and associate dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Overall health was rated on the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who reported being in fair or poor health; the number of days in poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants. Researchers then looked at factors that affect people's health within four categories: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

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