County's health ranking holds steady at 58

By Jennifer Cohron
Posted 3/16/18

For the second year in a row, Walker County has ranked 58th in the state in overall health outcomes.The county also ranked 41st in quality of life in the ninth annual County Health Rankings released …

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County's health ranking holds steady at 58

Posted

For the second year in a row, Walker County has ranked 58th in the state in overall health outcomes.

The county also ranked 41st in quality of life in the ninth annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. 

Shelby County has held the top spot in the rankings since the first report was released in 2011.

In 2015, Walker county ranked 67th, or last, in health outcomes in the annual report, which ranks counties on more than 30 factors that influence health, including education, jobs and access to quality health care.

The Walker County Health Action Partnership uses the rankings to measure progress and guide planning for future projects and initiatives.

HAP's goal is to be ranked in the state's top 10 for health outcomes by 2025.

HAP is part of the Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama, a regional initiative to align resources, efforts and best practices in order to address disparities in education, health and financial stability.

“We are pleased to be holding the steady at this point in our efforts," Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation and HAP's 2018 chair, said in a press release after the rankings were announced. “We are still striving to be in the top 10 in Alabama. This aspirational goal will require the cooperation of all of Walker County, but We Can Do That!”

Since 2013, the more than 80 partners that make up HAP have worked to build a culture of health in Walker County through projects such as increasing recreational opportunities at Walker County Lake and other waterways throughout the county.

The percentage of residents who have access to exercise opportunities increased from 48 percent in 2017 to 53 percent in the latest report.

The county also experienced a slight decrease in the number of adults who smoke and in the number of preventable hospital stays.

However, the number of adults classified as obese rose from 33 percent to 36 percent since the 2017 report, and the number of adults who reported no leisure time physical activity increased from 31 to 33 percent.

The county also continues to have one of the worst premature death rates in the state, a measure of the years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 people.

According to the official website for the rankings, every death occurring before the age of 75 contributes to the total number of years of potential life lost.

Walker County's years of potential life lost rate was 14,900 in the 2018 report. Only Wilcox and Sumter counties have a higher rate.