The healthiest Mississippians live in Desoto County and the least healthiest in the Delta’s Quitman County.
Those are among the conclusions in the fourth annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. Nationally, the data reveal that unhealthy counties, with childhood poverty rates and other social determinants of health much higher than in healthy counties, have more than twice the rate of premature deaths. The Rankings allow counties to see how they compare to other counties within the state based on a range of factors that influence health, including health behaviors (such as tobacco use, diet, exercise, and alcohol use), access to clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment.
According to the 2013 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Mississippi, starting with most healthy, are DeSoto, Lamar, Lafayette, Rankin, and Madison. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are Quitman, Coahoma, Wilkinson, Holmes, and Claiborne.
“We all have a stake in creating a healthier community and no single sector alone can tackle the health challenges in any given community,” said Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). “Community leaders in every county can improve the health of their citizens through policies that make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Local governments in Mississippi had better use caution, however, in setting policies that make healthy choices the easy choices.
The study follows Gov. Phil Bryant’s signing of an “anti-Bloomberg” bill that prohibits local governments from regulating food or drink portion sizes, fat or salt content or requiring food content labeling or banning toys in kids meals.
The measure, dubbed “The Big Gulp bill,” is in reaction to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to regulate soft drink serving sizes, a measure recently invalidated by the courts.
Bloomberg calls Mississippi’s law “ridiculous” and noted the state’s repeatedly high ranking among the states for obesity and an unhealthy population. Supporters of Mississippi’s “anti-Bloomberg legislation say the measure is needed to halt the encroachment of “Nanny State” policies.
The County Health Rankings include a snapshot of each county in Mississippi with a color-coded map of each county’s overall health ranking. There are also new county-level trend graphs detailing change over time for several of the measures, including children in poverty, unemployment, and quality of care. The statistics come from national reputable sources such as the FBI, CDC, Medicare, and the Census Bureau.
Nationally, Mississippi and Louisiana are tied for 49th and rank last this year. These two states have been in the bottom three states since the 1990 Edition.
Mississippi ranks well for a low prevalence of binge drinking and a low violent crime rate. It ranks in the bottom 5 states on 12 of the 24 measures including a high prevalence of obesity, a high prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle, a low high school graduation rate, limited availability of primary care physicians, a high prevalence of low birthweight infants, and a high prevalence of diabetes. Mississippi ranks 49th for all health determinants combined, so its overall ranking is unlikely to change significantly in the near future.
Mississippi’s county-by-county ranking are below: