Coweta County ranks in the top 15 for health outcomes, factors

By Laura Kemper / [email protected]

Coweta County was ranked in the top 15 for the state of Georgia in health outcomes and health factors in an annual County Health Rankings report.

Out of Georgia’s 159 counties, Coweta was ranked 11th in health outcomes and 13th in health factors. These rankings from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute are based on how long people live and how healthy people feel, along with behavioral, social and environmental factors.

Miranda Helms, coordinator of quality improvement and accreditation for District 4 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said the report allows local health officials to use data to prioritize improving health outcomes. The data is also used to create a Community Health Improvement Plan published by the department every five years, she said.

“It was important to us that each county have its own data set,” Helms said.

District 4 covers 12 counties, all with their own demographic and health issues, she said. The county breakdown allows county officials and the Department of Public Health to prioritize their dollars and programs in each area.

For example, Coweta County has a drinking and driving problem, Helms said. In the county, 37 percent of driving fatalities from 2016 to 2020 were alcohol-related. Statewide, 21 percent of driving deaths during the same period were alcohol-related.

It lets local health officials know that a campaign promoting safe drinking can be a good investment in the county, she said.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer,” Helms said.

The struggles district members face may be different, said Natalie Shelton, public information officer and risk communicator for District 4S.

For example, the distance a resident must travel to a hospital can affect health outcomes, she said. Rural areas may have less access to health care; as older doctors retire, younger doctors may be looking to locate in more urban areas, Shelton said.

Low-income residents may have to choose between health care and child care, whether they’re insured or not, Helms said.

Regional priorities

In District 4, surveys of health departments showed the district would like to focus on access to mental health care, promoting healthy lifestyles and seeking primary health care for things that are preventative, Helms said.

But those priorities may change as the department begins to refresh its health improvement plan, she said. Work on the new plan to improve community health should begin by April 2023, she said.

The numbers:

In ranking life expectancy, the data looks at premature death by proportional distribution of deaths by age. For example, a death at age 35 counts eight times more than a death at age 70. Using this scale, Coweta County averaged 6,900 years of life lost to premature death between 2018 and 2020 — 10,400 for black residents and 6,500 for white residents. Top performers in the U.S. averaged 5,600 years lost, and top performers in Georgia averaged 8,000.

Additionally, for quality of life, the assessment considers poor or fair health status, days with poor physical health, days with poor mental health, and low birth weight. In Georgia, averages were 19 percent poor or fair health, 4.1 days of poor physical health, 4.8 days of poor mental health, and 10 percent low birth weight. In Coweta County, those numbers were 18 percent, 4 percent, 4.9 percent, and 9 percent, respectively. While Coweta County beat most of the Georgia averages, it lagged behind the top performers in the U.S., which averaged 15 percent poor or fair health, 3.4 days of poor physical health, 4 days of poor mental health and 6 percent underweight at birth.

Likewise, Coweta County beat the state averages in some areas, including adult obesity averaged 32 percent for Coweta County and 33 percent for the state, sexually transmitted diseases averaged 276.8 in Coweta County and 637.8 in the state; and teenage births, 18 in Coweta County, while the state average was 23. But the state lagged behind the nation’s top performers in those areas, including adult obesity at an average of 30 percent, STDs at an average of 161.8 and teenage births average 11 .

The report also looked at social and economic factors, such as the percentage of children in poverty, 12 percent in Coweta County, better than the state average of 20 percent but higher than the U.S. best of 9 percent. Violent crime averaged 232 incidents in Coweta County, below the state average of 388 incidents but well above the top U.S. average of 63 incidents. Coweta beat the state and tied for the top performers in the U.S. for its 61 injury deaths. The state was 69.

The report specifically singled out as needing improvement adult smoking, adult obesity, binge drinking and alcohol-related driving deaths: 18 percent, 32 percent, 19 percent and 37 percent of driving deaths in Coweta County, respectively.

The report lists Coweta County’s strengths as the number of teenage births (18), the percentage of uninsured residents (13 percent), the high school graduation rate (90 percent), the percentage of children in poverty (12 percent), the low-income estimate of inequality (4) and the number of deaths due to injury (61).

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