According to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, the counties with the poorest health rankings in West Virginia are in the southern coalfields.
The new report shows Mercer and Wyoming counties with some of the poorest health rankings in West Virginia.
Mercer County Commissioner, Greg Puckett, said, “If you look at our rates in terms of obesity, smoking, Hepatitis B, C, HIV… There are things that are really daunting.”
The report measures the length and quality of life, and the percent of low birth weight newborns. It factored in things like high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.
Puckett said being ranked 51 out of 55 counties is disheartening, but county officials are actively working to improve those numbers.
“I think if you look at the amount of work that’s being done by our local community coalition, the amount of effort that’s being done by our local community mental health center and several other things, I think you can see that we’re on the upswing and there’s a lot of things going on that I think are just going to make us better,” Puckett explained.
He said policies and plans to focus on tobacco, underage drinking, and harm reduction are in the works, with the help of some grant funding.
Just under Mercer County on the list is Wyoming coming in at number 52.
Wyoming County Commissioner, Jason Mullins, said, “I do believe there’s a correlation between average household income and the healthier choices that people are making.”
Mullins acknowledged the lack of public health employees as a large contributor to the county’s poor health.
According to the report, Wyoming County has one primary care physician for every 3,630 people, and the ratios for mental health providers and dentists are one for every 5,300. The state average for primary care physicians is one doctor to every 1,270 people.
County Health Rankings and Roadmaps use the reports to show the relationship between socioeconomic factors and public health, and how county officials can tailor policies to improve public well being.