BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County showed improvement in the 2013 rankings released as part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, but, as the data shows, there’s still room for improvement.
Edgecombe improved from No. 96 to No. 88 (out of 100 counties) in Health Outcomes and from No. 99 to No. 98 in Health Factors in the best report to-date for the county in the history of the four-year old compilation.
And, according to Meredith Capps, health education supervisor for the Edgecombe County Health Department, the economy, education and public awareness played a role in both the areas of improvement as well as those in which the county slipped.
“All the “slippages” are directly related to economic hardship,” Capps explained. “A rise in unemployment rates will lead to more children living in poverty and a possible rise in substance abuse.”
Likewise, a partnership between the health department and both the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Triangle to the Coast Affiliate and Vidant Edgecombe Hospital helped increase awareness in regards to the need for screening and monitoring one’s health.
In essentially the only categories where Edgecombe County has a better ranking than the state average, both diabetes testing and mammography screening increased from year to year.
“The Edgecombe County Health Department received funding from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Triangle to the Coast Affiliate to provide baseline/screening mammograms and advanced screening to uninsured and underinsured women 41 and older in Edgecombe County and women who are high risk, symptomatic, and/or have a personal or family history of breast cancer,” Capps said.
She also noted that the health department and Vidant Edgecombe have joined forces to help alleviate out-of-pocket expenses for women in need of mammogram services.
“The Community Benefits Grants Program of Vidant Edgecombe Hospital helps to fund the Edgecombe County Health Department’s Chronic Disease Self Management program which places emphasis on diabetes, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases,” she said, adding “In order to keep improving, we need to continue to encourage citizens to exercise and be proactive in their health and encourage women to schedule annual mammograms and educate them on breast health.”
Another area where the county’s state standing showed improvement was in that of teen births (per 1,000 teens ages 15-19) where the rate improved from 73 per 1,000 in 2012 to 67 in 2013. Still, because of improvement in other counties, Edgecombe went from 12th highest rate in the state in 2012 to ninth-highest in 2013.
And while it is a problem that is not solely tied to teen pregnancies, the county saw an increase in low birthweight babies (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
In 2012, there were 681 low birthweight babies born out of 5,275 born in the county, or 12.9 percent. In 2013, that increased to 686 out of 5,266, or 13 percent.
Nationally, according to the March of Domes, one baby out of every 12 born is a low birthweight baby. In Edgecombe County, which has the fourth-highest rate in the state, it is one baby out of every 7 2/3 births.
Capps said a hands-on approach is the only way to improve those numbers.
“We need to continue encouraging women to be proactive in their health and the health of their unborn child,” she said. “We need to place emphasis on education and programs to help pregnant women during and after pregnancy. The health department’s maternity clinic offers prenatal care to pregnant women. Also, Edgecombe County Health Department offers pregnancy care management services that are provided for high risk women during pregnancy and for two months after delivery.”
County Health Rankings & Roadmaps is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranks the health of nearly every county in the nation and illustrate that much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office.
The complete study, which includes data for all four years, may be found at HYPERLINK "http://www.countyhealthrankings.org" http://www.countyhealthrankings.org. Once you have navigated to that site, click on the state outline and then select the county to see the data. An additional feature allows the user to compare data from one county to another.