By Laura Camper / firstname.lastname@example.org
Coweta County was ranked in the top 15 for the state of Georgia in health outcomes and for health factors in an annual County Health Rankings report.
Out of Georgia’s 159 counties, Coweta was ranked 11th for health outcomes and 13th for health factors. Those rankings, by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, were based on how long people live and how healthy people feel along with behavioral, societal and environmental factors.
Miranda Helms, quality improvement and accreditation coordinator for District 4 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said the report allows local health officials to use data to prioritize to improve health outcomes. The data is also used to create the Community Health Improvement Plan published by the department every five years, she said.
“It was important for us that each county could have its own data set,” Helms said.
District 4 covers 12 counties all with their own demographics and health issues, she said. The break down by county allows county officials and the Department of Public Health to prioritize its dollars and programs in each area.
For instance, Coweta County has a problem with drinking and driving, Helms said. In the county, 37 percent of driving deaths from 2016 to 2020 involved alcohol. In the state, 21 percent of driving deaths in the same period involved alcohol.
That lets local health officials know that a campaign promoting safe drinking behavior might be a good investment in the county, she said.
“There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer,” Helms said.
The struggles that members of the county face may be different, said Natalie Shelton, public information officer and risk communicator for District 4S.
For instance, the distance that a resident must travel to a hospital can influence health outcomes, she said. Rural areas may have less access to healthcare; as older doctors retire, younger doctors may be looking to settle in more urban areas, Shelton said.
Low-income residents may have to choose between healthcare and childcare whether they are insured or not, Helms said.
In District 4, surveys of the health departments showed that the district would like to focus on access to mental healthcare, promoting healthy lifestyles and seeking primary healthcare for things that are preventative, Helms said.
But those priorities may change as the department begins to refresh its health improvement plan, she said. Work should start on the new Community Health Improvement Plan by April 2023, she said.
In ranking length of life, the data looked at premature death by prorating deaths by age. For instance, a death at age 35 counts eight times as much as a death at age 70. Using that scale Coweta County averaged 6,900 years of life lost to premature death between 2018 and 2020 — 10,400 for Black residents and 6,500 for white residents. The top U.S. performers averaged 5,600 lost years and the top Georgia performers averaged 8,000.
Additionally, for quality of life the assessment looked at poor or fair health status, poor physical health days, poor mental health days and low birthweight. In Georgia the averages were 19 percent poor or fair health, 4.1 poor physical health days, 4.8 poor mental health days and 10 percent low birth weights. In Coweta County, those numbers were 18 percent, 4, 4.9 and 9 percent, respectively. While Coweta County, beat most of the Georgia averages, it lagged behind U.S. top performers, which averaged 15 percent poor or fair health, 3.4 poor physical health days, 4 poor mental health days and 6 percent low birthweight.
Similarly, Coweta County beat state averages in some areas including adult obesity averaged 32 percent for Coweta County and 33 percent for the state, sexually transmitted diseases averaged, 276.8 in Coweta County and 637.8 in the state; and teen births, 18 in Coweta County while the state average was 23. But the state lagged behind the top performers in the nation in those areas including with adult obesity at an average of 30 percent, sexually transmitted diseases averaged 161.8 and teen births averaged 11.
The report also looked at social and economic factors such as percent of children in poverty, 12 percent in Coweta County, better than the state average of 20 percent but higher than the best in the U.S. which is 9 percent. Violent crime was an average 232 incidents in Coweta County, lower than the state average of 388 incidents but well above U.S. top performers average of 63 incidents. Coweta beat the state and matched the top U.S. performers for its 61 injury deaths. The state was 69.
The report specifically flagged as needs improvement adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking and alcohol impaired driving deaths: 18 percent, 32 percent, 19 percent and 37 percent of driving deaths in Coweta County respectively.
The report listed Coweta County’s strengths as the number of teen birth (18), the percent of uninsured residents (13 percent), the high school completion rate (90 percent), the percent of children in poverty (12 percent), the low income inequality score (4), and the number of deaths due to injury (61).