health ranking stats
National report cites impact of social and economic struggles on the city’s overall health.
Richmond earns low marks on a number of critical factors that influence the health and well-being of residents, according to a comprehensive study that examined nearly every county and city in the United States.
The report, “County Health Rankings 2014,” is produced by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. It ranks localities in two ways: health outcomes, which describe the overall health of people now; and health factors, which are predictive of a region’s future health. Among Virginia localities, Richmond ranks 121st for both health factors and health outcomes. At No. 133, nearby Petersburg comes in dead last.
By contrast, the counties around Richmond fare much better. Chesterfield ranks 16th in health outcomes and 14th in health factors, and Henrico is 34th in outcomes and 22nd in health factors. Hanover is the healthiest, apparently, at No. 13 for health outcomes and No. 7 for health factors.
Health factors include behavior such as smoking, diet and exercise, alcohol abuse, sexual activity, access to and quality of health care services. The study also ranks a locality’s health according to social and economic factors, which include education, income, social support and community safety, air and water quality, housing and transit.
Where does Richmond fare the worst? Health outcomes for measures such as quality of life and length of life fall below — in certain instances, well below — state and national averages. For example, Richmond’s rate of premature death — represented by the years of potential lost life before age 75 — is 10,902 per 100,000 people. (Chesterfield’s figure is 5,478; Henrico’s, 6,129. Hanover’s figure is 5,208, placing it among the top-10 performing U.S. localities.) The average for Virginia is 6,362 per 100,000 people, versus 5,317 in the United States.
Richmond’s rate of low-birth-weight babies (those born weighing less than 5 pounds) also raises alarms, at 11.9 percent — nearly 4 percentage points higher than Virginia’s overall rate, and almost double the U.S. average. Another quality-of-life concern: Sixteen percent of Richmond adults report fair or poor health, compared with Virginia’s overall rank of 14 percent and the national average of 10 percent.
Incidences of sexually transmitted diseases are rampant in Richmond, with 1,359 people infected per every 100,000 of population. That number is 206 in Hanover, 395 in Chesterfield and 463 in Henrico. The teen birth rate — the number of births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 — is 47, compared with 16 in Hanover, 20 in Chesterfield and 26 in Henrico.
“Almost all [the city of] Richmond’s problem areas stem from poor social and economic factors,” says Bridget Caitlin, director of the ranking program at the University of Wisconsin. That includes high school graduation rates, with only 59 percent of Richmond ninth-graders earning their diploma within four years. The statewide figure is 82 percent.
Other red flags: Nearly 9 percent of Richmond residents are unemployed (compared to 5.9 percent in Virginia); a high percentage of children live in poverty (37 percent versus 16 percent statewide, compared with 8 percent in Hanover, 10 percent in Chesterfield and 14 percent in Henrico); and nearly two-thirds of children come from single-parent households — more than double Virginia’s overall mark of 30 percent.
On the brighter side, Richmond’s rate of preventable hospital stays — a measure of how often people get hospitalized for ailments that could be treatable on an outpatient basis — is lower (46 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees) than it is in Virginia (59 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees).
Richmond public health officials also see glimmers of daylight despite the gloomy statistics. In the same report four years ago, Richmond was ranked 128th. “Now we’re at 121, so we are headed in the right direction,” says Dr. Donald R. Stern, director of the Richmond City Health District.
For example, Stern says outreach and education programs have helped reduce the number of teen pregnancies in Richmond by 51 percent during the past five years, from 916 in 2008 to 447 through 2012. Stern says that includes 200 fewer teen abortions and 200 fewer live births.