State Study: Southern Indiana Is Not A Healthy Place To Live

Jackson, Scott & Jennings Counties are near bottom of a recently released national study of the healthiest counties.
Jackson County is rated 74th in the state; Jennings County was 85th and Scott County 92nd.
The study examined mortality rates, obesity, excessive drinking, smoking, teen birthrates and a variety of other factors, including diabetic and mammography screenings. Other factors studied include homicide rates, children in poverty and access to healthy foods and recreational facilities.
Hamilton County on Indianapolis’ north side was the healthiest in the state, while Scott County, which borders Jackson County on the south, was the state’s least healthy.
The physical health of a community’s residents can play a large role in the overall success of a community, a state health official said last week.
“The success of a community is often related to both the economic and the overall health of the population,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said. “What is known is that community health improvement primarily occurs when all leaders work together to foster the improved health status of all the citizens.”
“When a community pulls together business leaders, health care systems, schools, non-profit organizations and local media outlets for the purpose of creating a more healthy and successful environment, all residents benefit,” Larkin added.
Rankings for other counties in the region show that Jennings County was the 85th healthiest; Bartholomew County was 41st; Monroe County was 25th; Lawrence County was 61st; and Washington County was 60th.
According to this year’s rankings, the 10 healthiest counties in Indiana are Hamilton, Dubois, Boone, LaGrange, Hendricks, Warrick, DeKalb, Wells, Whitley and Marshall.
The 10 counties in the poorest health are Jay, Lake, Jennings, Martin, Sullivan, Fayette, Switzerland, Pike, Starke and Scott.
The rankings, compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are based upon how healthy residents of each county are and how long they live.
Larkin said there have been statewide initiatives in Indiana that have taken this kind of systemwide approach to address public health issues.
One is INShape Indiana launched in 2005 to challenge all Hoosiers to eat better, move more and avoid tobacco.
Another is the Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative, which uses partnerships statewide to enhance the health and quality of life of Hoosiers by promoting good nutrition, regular physical activity and a healthy weight through policy, environment and lifestyle change.
“The County Health Rankings are an important tool for local health departments as they prepare for national public health accreditation,” Larkin said. “Health departments can use these data as part of the community health assessment and community health improvement plan, which are both required documents for public health accreditation.”