Most metro counties among most healthy in Georgia, says ARC report

By David Pendered

Forsyth County ranks as the most healthy county in Georgia, according to a new report by the ARC that shows five other counties in metro Atlanta are among the state’s top 10 counties in terms of health outcomes.

"Analytics with Mike & Mike" is a video by the ARC's data researchers Mike Alexander and Mike Carnathan. Credit: ARC

“Analytics with Mike & Mike” is a video by the ARC’s data researchers Mike Alexander and Mike Carnathan. Credit: ARC

Clayton County is the only metro county ranked in the unhealthy category based on health factors, according to the ARC report. Barrow and Spalding counties are in the middle ranges, and the remaining counties are all in the healthy range.

The ARC reached these and other conclusions by analyzing data from the recently released County Health Rankings report, produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The report is presented in a video titled “Analytics by Mike & Mike,” as in the ARC’s data jockeys Mike Alexander and Mike Carnathan, and was posted Wednesday on the ARC’s website.

The health rankings are based on two common measurements – health outcomes and health factors.

Health outcomes measure the overall health of a community by gauging indicators including premature death, birth outcomes, and health-related quality of life issues.

Health factors measure indicators including social determinants of health, behaviors that influence health, and access to health care.

The ARC report provides the following snapshot of health:

Health Outcomes – Georgia’s Top 10

  1. Forsyth
  2. Fayette
  3. Oconee
  4. Gwinnett
  5. Cherokee
  6. Cobb
  7. Columbia
  8. Morgan
  9. Coweta
  10. Rockdale

Health Factors – Georgia’s Top 10

  1. Fayette
  2. Oconee
  3. Forsyth
  4. Columbia
  5. Cherokee
  6. Harris
  7. Cobb
  8. Gwinnett
  9. Union
  10. Bryan

Viewers also will learn how to take a deeper dive into some data bases to learn more about the health of communities within each county. The webinar notes that this information can help penetrate the snapshot of an entire county, which can mask some pockets of health problems within a county’s borders.

Infant mortality is one such indicator, and it’s available at neighborhoodnexus.org. Infant mortality is an indicator of a community’s health because one factor of healthy birth is the health of the mother. Unhealthy neighborhoods are located in Spalding County, which the webinar notes isn’t surprising because Spalding has a high number of unhealthly indicators.

However, a view at the neighborhood level shows that even counties that rank as generally healthy shows contain pockets of high rates of infant mortality. These pockets appear in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties.

The rankings are interesting in a culture that is fascinated with comparisons.

Their value in helping to improve community health is told in a story about how this information is improving the quality of health in Fulton County that appears on the website of countyhealthrankings.org.

The story tells of the effort to match data about asthma and use it to reduce suffering and death caused by the lung disease. The effort involved matching data collected through home inspections for asthma factors, conducted by Fulton County’s health department, with asthma-related visits to the emergency room of Grady Memorial Hospital.

The research allowed health officials to identify “specific housing areas that were the source of air quality problems,” where “molds and allergens were exacerbated by poor quality air filters.” Health officials now are working with the Atlanta Housing Authority to upgrade its policies and require landlords to use a higher-grade of air filter and change filters more often, according to the report.

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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