ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County, according to a recent study, is a little healthier.
That good news came with the release of the County Health Rankings report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bladen County rose seven positions to No. 91, said Cris Harrelson, director of the Bladen County Health Department.
“As the new director for the Bladen County Health and Human Services agency, I was both troubled and encouraged to find that Bladen County is ranked No. 91 out of 100 counties in North Carolina,” said Harrelson.
The report utilizes many variables for calculating its various health outcomes such as automobile crashes which are included when determining the health ranking for premature deaths in which Bladen County ranked 95th. Other factors which are weighed are such things as educational attainment, unemployment figures, children in poverty, and folks who are uninsured.
Harrelson explained, “The County Health Rankings illustrate in a powerful way that our health is connected to where we live, learn, work, and play.
He added, “Bladen’s overall ranking is based on scores assigned to several health factors: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. For instance, our ranking reflects the percentages of our citizens who may be obese, have chronic health conditions (such as diabetes), and who take part in risky behaviors (such as smoking and excessive drinking). It also takes into account the overall conditions of our county, such as the availability of clinical care services (and any hurdles our citizens may face to accessing them), the percentages of our citizens who are uninsured, the socioeconomic conditions (such as low high school graduation rates, unemployment, and poverty levels), and the condition of Bladen’s environment (such as air and drinking water quality).”
Harrelson said that many of the issues highlighted by the report are community-related issues and can be overcome through creating partnerships in the community.
Efforts are being made to combat many issues through the Healthy Bladen Collaborative. Harrelson said the collaborative is made up of representatives from Bladen County Schools, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Bladen County/Cape Fear Valley Hospital, Bladen County Health Services, East Point Mental Health Services, and many other state and county agencies.
“No single person or group can tackle this problem alone. It will take leaders from business and government, educators, employers, citizens, and organizations representing many interests working together to create opportunities to live a healthy life,” said Harrelson. “While results may take years to achieve, we can start down the road to better health today. Health is everyone’s responsibility. Working together, we can make Bladen County a healthier place to live, learn, work, and play.”