Botetourt among healthiest places to live in Virginia

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Botetourt County ranked among the healthiest places to live in Virginia, according to the first-ever nationwide County Health Rankings released last week by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

While Botetourt ranked 13th out of 132 localities in the Commonwealth for “Health Factors” that contribute to people’s good health as measured by the survey, the county was only 41st in “Health Outcomes,” which was still among the top one-third of Virginia localities.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute corroborated on the County Health Rankings that are designed to show how cities and counties within Virginia compare on many factors that influence health and provide a snapshot of residents’ health in each locality.

The purpose of the County Health Rankings is to compare counties and cities within states, so the report focuses on state-specific rankings and does not provide rankings among states.

“The health of a community depends on many factors, including individual behaviors, the quality of health care, education, jobs and the environment,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley, MD, MBA, FAAP. “All of us—from public health to business leaders—have a role to play in raising awareness about the multiple influences on health.”

The County Health Rankings is based on a model of population health improvement in which health outcomes are the result of a set of health factors.

A county’s health was ranked on two sets of measures: health outcomes (length and quality of life) and health factors (health behaviors, access to and quality of clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment), according to a news release from the VDH.

“The Virginia Department of Health, working closely with our local health departments, the healthcare community, local governments and community partners, has tackled such issues as infant mortality and obesity, seeing great strides made in both areas. Just this past December, a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants and bars took effect, protecting Virginians from the negative health affects of second-hand smoke,” said Remley. “We are inspired by these successes and spurred forward by the knowledge that there is much more to do. For communities to be healthy, each of us needs to take actions to improve our individual health as well as community level actions.”

Based on Health Outcomes, Fairfax County was ranked as the healthiest county in Virginia.

Neighboring Craig County ranked highest among Botetourt’s adjoining counties for Health Outcomes. In fact, it was the highest ranking rural county in Virginia at 20th. Roanoke ranked 29th and Bedford 40th, one spot ahead of Botetourt.

Salem ranked 44th, Rockbridge County 71st and Alleghany 75th.

The Health Outcomes ranking is based on measures of mortality and morbidity, each also is ranked in the study.

The mortality rank, representing length of life, is based on a measure of premature death—the years of potential life lost prior to age 75.

The morbidity rank is based on measures that represent health-related quality of life and birth outcomes. Four morbidity measures were combined for an overall morbidity ranking. They are self-reported fair or poor health, poor physical health days, poor mental health days, and the percent of births with low birth weight.

The higher the ranking, the better the Health Outcomes.

Botetourt ranked 45th in Mortality and 37th in Morbidity.

Also, the higher the ranking the better the Health Factors.

The Health Factors rankings are based on four factors—health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic and physical environment factors.

In turn, each of these factors is based on several measures.

Health Behaviors include measures of smoking, diet and exercise, alcohol use and risky sex behavior.

Clinical Care includes measures of access to care and quality of care.

Social and Economic factors include measures of education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety.

The Physical Environment includes measures of environmental quality and the built environment.

Each community also was ranked on each of these four factors.

While Botetourt ranked 13th statewide for Health Factors, it was ranked just 50th for what many would consider one of its greatest attributes, Physical Environment.

Air quality is based on air pollution-particulate matter days and air pollution ozone days.

Built environment is based on access to healthy foods and liquor store density.

Neighboring Craig County ranked first statewide for Physical Environment, Rockbridge County was 25th, Roanoke County 35th, Bedford County 51st and Alleghany County 59th.

Botetourt did rank high for Healthy Behaviors, 12th, just behind Roanoke County, which was 7th.

Botetourt ranked behind its neighbors in Clinical Care at 43rd. Roanoke County was ranked 8th, Salem 9th and Rockbridge 36th.

Botetourt was ranked 17th for Social and Economic Factors related to the Health Factors rankings. Roanoke County was ranked 11th, Bedford County 26th, Craig 33rd, Salem 39th, Rockbridge 45th and Alleghany 63rd.

Overall, Roanoke County ranked 5th overall in Health Factors, Bedford County was 26th, Rockbridge 29th, Craig 36th, Salem 37th, Alleghany 64th.

To view the report for Virginia, and for more details about Botetourt’s Health Outcomes and Health Factors, go to http://www.countyhealthrankings.org.

For more information about how the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia’s leaders are measuring and improving the health and well-being of its communities, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov and http://vaperforms.virginia.gov/.