Fayette tops in Georgia for life expectancy

Folks in Fayette County have longer life expectancies than anyone else living anywhere else in Georgia — 78.9 years — according to a new study.

In fact, Fayette County has been ranked first out of Georgia’s 159 counties when it comes to residents’ overall health.

Along with its overall first place ranking, a snapshot of Fayette’s statewide ranking showed that the county’s scoring averages outpaced the Georgia average in 13 of 15 measures and was better than the national average in 13 of 14 measures.

Funded by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation (HGF), the findings of the statewide advocacy campaign, “Partner Up! for Health” were released last week.

The study was divided into categories that included Social Determinants, Health Indicators and Health Outcomes. Category sections for Social Determinants included the percentage of those graduating from high school or college, the percentage below the poverty rate, the total crime index and the unemployment rate.

The Health Indicators category sections included the percentage of obese adults, the percentage with sexually transmitted diseases, low birth weights, percentage uninsured, the number of persons per physician and the teen birth rate.

The Health Outcomes category sections included the average life expectancy, age-adjusted percentage of adults with diagnosed diabetes, asthma hospitalizations, age-adjusted death rates for cardiovascular disease and age adjusted death rates for cancer.

The report ranks each county for each of the 15 measurements, and then averages the measurement-specific rankings to produce an overall ranking for each county. It also identifies areas where each county is particularly strong or weak, and indicates the number of measures in which a given county is better or worse than both the Georgia average and the U.S. average.

Within the Social Determinants category comparing Georgia’s 159 counties, Fayette was ranked:

• 1st for the percentage of high school graduates or higher, or 92.4 percent.

• 1st for the percentage below the poverty level, or 4.7 percent.

• 44th for the total crime rate for counties of more than 100,000, or 1,906.7 crimes.

• 16th for the unemployment rate, or 8.6 percent.

In the Health Indicators categories Fayette ranked:

• 5th for percentage of obese adults, or 24.6 percent.

• 29th for sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000, or 261.1.

• 4th for low weight births per 100, or 5.3.

• 24th for percentage of uninsured, or 16.2 percent.

• 28th for the number of persons per physician, or 561.

• 1st for teen birth rates per 1,000, or 11.6.

In the Health Outcomes category Fayette ranked:

• 1st in life expectancy, or 78.9 years.

• 63rd for adults with diabetes per 100,000, or 11.

• 17th in asthma hospitalizations per 100,000, or 57.

• 3rd in age adjusted cardiovascular deaths per 100,000, or 191.3.

• 18th in age adjusted cancer deaths per 100,000, or 155.6.

And compared to the United States, Fayette County residents fared better in all categories except the number of physicians per person.

For more information on the 2010 Georgia Public Health Ranking Report visit http://www.togetherwecandobetter.com/countybycounty.html

The database pulled together county-level public health data from a variety of existing public sources and organizes it in a system that makes it easy to pull county-specific reports and compare the health of citizens in any county with the remainder of the state and the nation, according to HGF.

An interactive map feature on the report’s website uses the overall county rankings to create a color-coded display where counties in the top 25 percent are green, next 25 percent are yellow, next 25 percent are orange, and bottom 25 percent are red. From the map page, users can scroll over a county to see a snapshot of statistics, or, click on that county for the full report.

As a state, Georgia could stand to show significant improvement in many of the measurement categories.

Analysis of the data shows that, as a state Georgia rates worse than the rest of the United States in 13 of the 14 included measurements. And 60 percent of Georgia counties rate worse than the United States in 10 or more of these measurements. HGF said other disturbing revelations include:

• 89 percent of Georgia counties have more obese adults than the U.S. average of 26.3 percent.

• 91 percent of Georgia counties have a lower life expectancy than the U.S. median of 76.5 years.

• 66 percent of Georgia counties have a worse rate of death from cancer than the U.S. average of 178.4 deaths per 100,000.

“Our purpose with this project is to provide individuals, the media and other stakeholders with an easy-to-use tool to examine key public health statistics at a county level,” said Charles Hayslett, spokesman for the Partner Up! for Public Health campaign.

“The simple fact of the matter is that Georgia has been losing ground in virtually every public health ranking for most of the past decade, but after a while state-level statistics simply don’t have much impact. What we’ve tried to do with this database is break as much data as we can down to a local level and put it out so that people can easily see it and examine it.”

“For the most part, it’s not a pretty picture,” Hayslett continued. “It’s not our purpose to embarrass any area or put any counties in a negative spotlight. But we’ve concluded that we have to call attention to the extent and gravity of Georgia’s health problems before we can expect local and state leaders to address them.”