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County health rankings stay steady

For the second straight year, Escambia County has landed in the middle of Alabama’s ranking of healthiest counties, according to a research study released last week.
The rankings used national data and information from the Alabama Department of Health to list Escambia County at 34 of 67 counties in total health said Ruth Harrell, chairwoman of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County.
That number, Harrell said, is about average and shows the county in almost exactly the same place it was in one year ago when it was ranked 32nd.
“I thought it was very interesting that for Alabama we were 34th in overall health,” she said. “For us in Escambia County, it’s very good. It looks like we are about where we were (last year) with most of our health risk behaviors.”
Harrell said the study considers several factors when ranking counties, including lifestyle, environment and even the number of doctors and insured residents.
“Our percent of uninsured is still at right about 20 percent (18 percent in 2011), which is not good,” Harrell said. “But it could be a lot worse and it is in other counties.”
Harrell said a plus for Escambia County is the number of qualified health care providers present in the area.
“We’re really blessed in our county to have excellent hospitals,” she said. “We have good physicians, and we have specialty physicians that come into our county from Mobile and Pensacola. We’re pretty well staffed for health care providers and we are certainly well equipped with our two hospitals in Brewton and Atmore. We’re able to get a lot of procedures done in our county that, if we lived in a more rural county, we would not be able to get.”
Currently Escambia County has approximately 1 doctor to every 1,294 people.
One area Harrell said the coalition wants to see improvement in is the infant mortality rate.
“It has increased and we’re not happy about that,” she said. “We’re working to determine what it is that is causing us to lose our babies before their first birthdays. The coalition has appointed a sub-committee called the community action team and that’s the committee that is working so hard on the infant mortality statistics right now.”
As the coalition works to provide solutions for specific health risks in Escambia County, Harrell said no new health threats have emerged, but she added there is always room for improvement.
“We can always get better,” she said. “The diabetic rate at 78 percent is pretty high for our county and the uninsured at 20 percent. But we are doing well in many areas.”