Rowan County drops in 2023 state health rankings report

Published 12:07 am Thursday, April 13, 2023

SALISBURY — Rowan County has been ranked 64 out of the state’s 100 counties in the 2023 county health rankings, dropping from 61 in 2022, according to the 2023 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Since the data was collected between 2020 and 2021, the director of the Rowan County Public Health Department Alyssa Harris said she believes the drop in rankings was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health factors that increased due to the pandemic included premature death, adult obesity rates and excessive drinking rates.

“All of these factors can be linked back to the pandemic and lifestyle behaviors — physical inactivity, poor nutrition, using substances and not being able to receive preventative care,” Harris said. “Clinical care factors include having fewer available primary care physicians, which we are seeing occur as more physicians retire and the workforce is limited in replacement. Finally, social and economic factors include the rate of children in poverty, which increased, and the number of social associations among community members, which likely decreased due to the pandemic.”

The rankings are calculated by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute each year and and “includes a variety of measures, such as one’s lifestyle, the level of education, the quality of healthcare, employment, community safety and the percent of children living in poverty,” according to the Rowan County Public Health Department.

But there are some areas in which the county achieved growth compared to last year’s rankings and are worth celebrating, including:

  • A decrease in the number of people claiming to have poor physical health days
  • A decrease in the number of people claiming to have poor mental health days
  • Fewer sexually transmitted infections
  • Decreased physical inactivity
  • Increase in access to exercise opportunities
  • Increase in high school completion and high school graduation
  • Decrease in unemployment
  • A decreased ratio of the number of patients per dentists and mental health providers
  • A decrease in the number of children living in a single-parent household

“Overall, we did not ‘slide back’ much. I’m very proud of those measures that balance the data and show significant gains in the health of citizens. Rowan County citizens deserve great health and for that to be reflected in the data,” Harris said.