Carroll County Times

Carroll County ranked 5th in state for health factors

Carroll County residents need to exercise more, and smoke and excessively drink less in order to hit national benchmarks, according to County Health Rankings released Wednesday.

Most Carroll County teens graduate high school. The county's teen birth rate and percentage of children in poverty are a tad lower than national benchmarks.

Compared to other counties in the state, the health of Carroll residents ranks high.

For four years, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - a nonprofit devoted to public health - has ranked the health of counties compared to others in its state. The data measures various factors that could influence health, such as socioeconomic status, health behaviors, clinical care and physical environment.

These four were divided into a category called "Health Factors." Carroll ranked number five in best health factors out of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore city.

This is important because where people live affects their health, said Michelle A. Larkin, Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's assistant vice president and deputy director, in a teleconference Wednesday morning.

"What influences our health really happens outside the medical care system," she said. "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."

Carroll is strong in socioeconomic factors, said Dorothy Fox, executive director of The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County.

About 93 percent of high-schoolers graduate. Out of 1,000 teenagers, about 20 have babies. About 7 percent of children live in poverty, compared to double that in the state, the data shows.

What Fox said concerns her is that physical inactivity is at 21 percent and adult obesity is at 28 percent. Combating this statistic is a high priority for The Partnership, Fox said.

The county also ranked above the state's average on drinking excessively and smoking, both at 19 percent, the data shows.

The counties were pitted against each other in another category: health outcomes. This was measured by how long residents live (mortality) and how healthy they feel while alive (morbidity).

Carroll County was also ranked fifth in this category, according to the data.

About 13 percent of adults reported fair or poor health, which is the same as the state's overall percentage. The national benchmark is 10 percent.

About 1,100 fewer people die a premature death in Carroll County than the state's average, according to the data.

Residents reported feeling mentally unhealthy for about 3.2 days within a span of 30 days, the data shows. This number is the same as the average in Maryland, and is nearly 1 day above the national benchmark, the data shows.

The Partnership brings together officials from Carroll Hospital Center, the Carroll County Health Department and other organizations with a goal of creating a healthier community.

"I think having a nonprofit agency in the county that is focused on that and able to work with community members of different agencies," Fox said, "is very helpful."