|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Study: Polk County health habits not up to state standards
BY BRIAN BESCH
In a recent survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Polk County was found to be the unhealthiest county in the state of Texas. Of the 232 Texas counties reviewed, Polk County ranked last. Drinking water, motor vehicle death rate, smoking, unemployment and children in single-parent households were main factors in the county's poor grade. The counties were ranked in categories such as morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment and social and economic factors. Polk County scored especially low in premature death (years of potential life lost before age 75), with 13,503. The state average is nearly half of that, at 6,928. Health behaviors were the next cause for concern. The teen birth rate for Polk County was well over the state average at 80 teens having children per 1,000 (state average is 60) Adult smoking was found in 26 percent of adults, eight percent higher than the state average and twice as much as the national benchmark of the 90th percentile. Physical inactivity was six percent over the state mark at 31 percent, meaning close to one in three people aged 20 and over reported having no leisure time physical activity. Motor vehicle crash death rates were at 42 per 100,000 in population, while the state average was 15 and the national benchmark was 10. In clinical care, Polk County scored low in dentists (ratio of dentists to population), primary care physicians (ratio of physicians to population) and preventable hospital stays. The least-healthy counties experienced 82.8 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, while in the healthiest counties the rate was 57.2. Polk was on the unhealthy side, with 77. The county also ranked poorly in unemployment (9.7 percent, state average 7.9), some college (adults with some post-secondary education), children in poverty and drinking water. The county did rank well in high school graduation, and was well below the state average for violent crimes and excessive drinking. For more information on the survey, go to http://www. countyhealthrankings.org. In a separate survey released by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Polk County had an excessive obesity rate, insufficient physical activity and a low life expectancy. Females in the county had 43 percent who had sufficient physical activity, an obesity rate of 44 percent and a life expectancy of 77 years. Males in Polk had 48 percent with enough physical activity, an obesity rate of 40 percent and a life expectancy of 70 years. More details about the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation study can be seen at http://www. texastribune.org/library/data/ texas-life-expectancy-2013.