Carroll County Times

Editorial: Still room to improve our health

A survey placing Carroll fifth in the state in health rankings highlights the positives of living here, but the results also show some areas where we can, and should, improve.

The rankings were put out by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to public health. The survey compared Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Among the positives were the facts that most Carroll teens graduate high school, and the county's teen birth rate and percentage of poverty are both below the national average.

According to the survey, the graduation rate in Carroll is 93 percent. Only about 20 out of every 1,000 teenagers has a baby, and only about 7 percent of children in the county live in poverty, far below the state average.

The survey looked at many aspects of life, such as socioeconomic status, clinical care and physical environment to draw a more complete picture of the health of the area. Michelle Larkin, assistant vice president and deputy director for the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said outside influences beyond medical care have a lot to do with overall quality of health. "It has to do with employment, it has to do with education, it has to do with poverty, it has to do with social behaviors," she said.

Areas that could use improving include reducing the number who drink excessively and smoke. Physical inactivity and obesity are other problems that the survey showed.

The problems, if left unaddressed, result in higher medical expenses overall and more instances of related illness or disease, such as heart attacks or diabetes.

It is good that Carroll ranked high on the list for many different health-related factors, but the problems that were identified demonstrate that there is still plenty of room for improvement and lots of ways that residents can work to make their lives healthier.