Making health a high priority

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have again named Shelby County the state’s healthiest county.

Shelby has long been considered the state’s healthiest county, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has given Shelby the top spot in Alabama every year since the rankings began in 2010.

Our spot in the rankings is not surprising. We are fortunate to have beautiful outdoor spaces, a varied dining scene that includes healthy eating options, and youth sports leagues, which encourage our children to be active from a young age.

However, the news isn’t all positive. As good as Shelby County’s residents are doing, we could certainly be healthier. Shelby County is better than Alabama’s average county in almost every category, but we still lag behind the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national benchmark rate in most categories.

The national benchmark rate in each category shows the 90th percentile rate, which means only 10 percent of counties in the country are better than that rate.

For example, the national benchmark rate for adult obesity is 25 percent, while 28 percent of Shelby County’s adults are obese. In Alabama as a whole, 33 percent of adults are obese.

In another example, the benchmark rate for adult smoking is 13 percent, while 19 percent of Shelby County’s adults smoke. In Alabama, 23 percent of adults smoke.

There are some bright spots. Of Shelby County’s adults, 74 percent have at least some college education, while nationally, that benchmark rate is at 70 percent. In Alabama, 56 percent of adults have some college education.

Shelby County is certainly a health leader in the state of Alabama, but it’s time for us to step up and become a health leader nationwide. We must continue to improve our health, both physically, emotionally and mentally, to make sure Shelby County will be a great place to live for generations to come.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.