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Stanly lags behind peer counties in 2019 County Health Rankings

The 2019 County Health Rankings recently released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) ranked all counties in the United States based on a variety of health categories.

The Stanly News & Press compared Stanly with its four peer counties in the state: Carteret, Chatham, Haywood and Moore.

Life expectancy in Stanly — which has a population of around 61,000 — was at least two years less than all the other counties. People in Stanly live to about 75.7 years of age, much lower than the other peer counties (78.4 in Carteret, 82.2 in Chatham, 77.5 in Haywood and 79.2 in Moore) and the state average, which is 78.

The health rankings used data from 2015-2017 for the measure.

Another piece of data that stands out is that Stanly, compared to its peer counties (and many other across the state), has a lack of primary care physicians and dentists.

There is one primary care physician for every 2,640 people in Stanly, according to the data, much higher than the other counties. The second closest county, Haywood, had one physician for every 1,380 people. The state average was one physician for every 1,420 people. There are 23 primary care physicians in Stanly. The health rankings used data from 2016 for the measure.

Stanly also ranked behind the other four counties in number of dentists available. There is one dentist in Stanly for every 3,070 people. The next closest is Haywood, which has one dentist for every 2,180 people. The state average was one dentist for every 1,800 people. The health rankings used data from 2017 for the measure.

“I believe the high ratio of patients to physicians/dentists also qualify our county as a HRSA medically underserved county,” said Jennifer Layton, human services program specialist at Stanly County Department of Public Health.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, medically underserved areas or counties “are areas or populations designated by HRSA as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population.”

Stanly would also likely qualify as a health professional shortage area, which is designated by HRSA as having, among other things, shortages of primary medical and dental care.

Stanly also ranked low in other areas.

Seventeen percent of teens and young adults ages 16-19 in Stanly are neither working nor in school (the data calls this “disconnected youth”), the highest among the other four peer counties. In North Carolina, the average is only seven percent. The health rankings used data from 2013-2017 for the measure.

Stanly is highest in firearm fatalities, which is the number of deaths due to firearms per 100,000 population. Stanly had a rate of 18, much higher than any of the other counties (second highest was Haywood with 16) and also higher than state average of 13. Rates measure the number of events (i.e., deaths, births, etc.) in a given time (generally one or more years) divided by the average number of people at risk during that period, according to the rankings. The health rankings used data from 2013-2017 for the measure.

One major positive for Stanly is that it is lower than all but one county when it comes to alcohol-impaired driving deaths. Only 22 percent of Stanly residents died from alcohol-impaired driving deaths which was lower than all other counties expect Haywood (16 percent) and much lower than the 30 percent state average. The health rankings used data from 2013-2017 for the measure.

Stanly is also tied with Moore for the highest high school graduation rate at 89 percent (the rankings define it as percentage of ninth-grade students that graduate in four years). The state average is 86 percent. The health rankings used data from 2017-2018 for the measure.

If anyone wants to examine the rankings, go to countyhealthrankings.org.

Contact Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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