Fayette tops in Georgia in ranking of health, economic vitality

When it comes to health status and economic factors among Georgia counties Fayette County is tied in first place with Oconee County for top honors.

A report released April 24 by the Partner Up! for Public Health Campaign’s 2012 Power Ratings of Georgia ranked counties based on their combined health status and economic vitality.

Funded by Healthcare Georgia Foundation, the Partner Up! for Public Health Campaign’s Health and Economic Power Ratings combine county-level health outcomes rankings produced by the University of Wisconsin with economic rankings calculated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in connection with the state’s job tax credits program, according to the report.

The University of Wisconsin ranking placed Fayette County in the top position among Georgia’s 159 counties in the Health Outcomes category. Fayette was third in the state in the 2012 Georgia Tax Credit Rankings (Reversed) and tied with Oconee at the top of the list in the overall Partner Up! for Public Health Power Ratings.

The University of Wisconsin program provides health outcomes rankings for most of the counties in the United States, including 156 of the 159 in Georgia, based on a variety of factors, including premature death, the percentage of the population reporting being in poor or fair health, the number of work-days missed for reasons of poor mental or physical health, and the percentage of babies born with low birth weight, according to the report.

The DCA job tax credit rankings are built on a formula that incorporates average per capita income, the local unemployment rate, and the local poverty rate. Because the purpose of the job tax credit program is to steer jobs to Georgia’s poorest counties, the DCA rankings list counties from worst to best. For the purpose of its analysis, the Partner Up! campaign reversed the DCA rankings to compare it to the University of Wisconsin Health outcomes rankings, the report stated.

The Partner Up! for Public Health Power Ratings add the resulting economic rankings to the health outcomes rankings and then divide the total by two. Fayette County finished first in the health outcomes rankings and third in the economic rankings. Oconee County, near Athens-Clarke County, topped the economic rankings and finished third in the health outcomes rankings. The two thus tied for the top spot in the overall Partner Up! Power Rating, according to the report.

The Partner Up! for Public Health Power Ratings are part of a larger campaign effort called “Connecting the Dots: Community Health & Economic Vitality,” which is aimed at educating opinion leaders and the public at large about the relationship between the health of local populations and local economies.

“You’d think this would be intuitive,” said Charles Hayslett, CEO of Hayslett Group LLC, which is managing the Partner Up! campaign. “We all know that we’re more productive when we’re healthy than when we’re down with a cold or the flu or something worse. The same is true at a community level. But as we’ve pursued this campaign over the past couple of years, it’s become more and more apparent that this linkage simply is not well appreciated by a lot of people, including some in leadership positions. So we decided that we needed to try to reintroduce the concept into the public dialogue about health status and the role of the public health system in securing and improving the health of all Georgians.”

Since first developing the Power Ratings analysis based on 2011 data from the University of Wisconsin study and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Hayslett and the campaign team have presented the study to more than two dozen business, civic, political and governmental audiences. The 2012 data from the University of Wisconsin and DCA produced few significant changes.

“There are several takeaways from this,” said Hayslett. “The most basic is that if a county does well in either health status or economic vitality, it’s likely to do well in the other and vice versa. If they do poorly in one, they tend to do poorly in the other. The clustering appears to be strongest at the top and bottom of the list.”

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