Which Alabama county is the healthiest?

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, April 3, 2018


By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Shelby County retained its ranking as the healthiest county in Alabama in the recently released County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The study compiled data for all counties in the nation using data from 2014-2016 in two main categories: health outcomes and health factors.

In the health outcomes category, the study measured average length of life and quality of life. In the health factors category, the study measured health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

Shelby County topped Alabama in both major categories.

The county recorded about 6,200 deaths before age 75 from 2014-2016, which topped the state average of 9,600 but lagged behind the national average of 5,300.

In the quality of life categories, Shelby County recorded an average of 15 percent of adults in poor health, an average of 3.7 poor physical health days within a 30-day period, an average of 3.9 poor mental health days in a 30-day period and an average of 7 percent of babies born with low birthweight. Again, the county’s numbers in these categories bested the state average, but lagged slightly behind the top national performers.

In the health factors category, Shelby County topped the state in all categories measured except the physical environment category. The county recorded a 17 percent adult smoking percentage, a 29 percent adult obesity rate, an 8.6 food environment index (on a 10-point scale), 24 percent physical inactivity, 88 percent access to exercise opportunities, a 19 percent excessive drinking rate, 18 percent alcohol-impaired driving deaths, 217.8 sexually transmitted infections and 17 teen births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15-19.

Shelby County has an 8 percent uninsured rate, a 1,170-to-1 ratio of residents to primary care physicians, a 1,970-to-1 ratio of population to dentists, a 1,710-to-1 ratio of population to mental health provider, 40 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, 86 percent diabetes monitoring and 69 percent mammography screening.

In the social and economic factors, Shelby County reported a 95 percent high school graduation rate, 74 percent of adults with at least some college education, 4.4 percent unemployment, 10 percent of children in poverty, 20 percent of children in single-parent households, 11.1 social associations per 10,000 residents, 180 violent crimes per 100,000 residents and 59 injury deaths per 100,000 residents.

Shelby County performed poorly in the physical environment category, where it placed 47 out of Alabama’s 67 counties. The county had an average of 11.4 daily density of fine particulate matter air pollution, which topped the stage average of 10.1, had no drinking water violations, had an 11 percent rate of severe housing problems, had an 86 percent rate of adults driving to work alone and had a 46 percent rate of adults driving alone during a commute of more than 30 minutes.

To view the entire study, visit Countyhealthrankings.org/app/alabama/2018/overview.