Survey: Baker County residents among least healthy in Oregon

By Chris Collins April 20, 2012 01:06 pm


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A national health survey has ranked Baker County residents as some of the least healthy in the state.

But it ranks the county in the middle of the pack when comparing factors that influence the health of its residents with those of other Oregon counties.

The county dropped to 30th in a ranking of health outcomes in the 2012 County Health Rankings report. That’s down one from the 29th-place finish of 2010 and 2011.

On the other hand, the county  moved to 16th in a ranking of health factors in the 2012 report, up from last year’s ranking of 18th, but down from its ranking of 14th two years ago.

Health factors included in the study range from health behaviors to clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have conducted the study and issued their reports annually for the past three years.

Baker County continues to score in the bottom of the health outcomes ranking for Oregon counties because of its high number of premature deaths.

That statistic is tied to the number of deaths before the age of 75, which was 9,036 per 100,000 population in this year’s report. The statewide rate was 6,343.

The health outcomes ranking also is gauged by morbidity, which the report defines as “how healthy people feel while alive.” 

Those results are based on a sampling of county residents from 2004 to 2010 in which they voluntarily replied to a series of health-related questions.

Here are the responses of the survey participants:

• 13 percent said they were in poor or fair health, compared to 14 percent statewide.

• They averaged 3.2 poor physical health days during the month, compared to 3.7 reported statewide.

• They averaged 3.0 poor mental health days during the month, compared to 3.3 statewide.

The morbidity ranking also includes the percentage of low-birthweight babies — those who weigh less than 5 pounds — which was at 8.3 percent in Baker County, compared to the statewide rate of 6 percent.

Low birthweight is included in the health outcomes portion of the study because it measures maternal exposure to health risks and the infant’s current and future health, as well as premature death risk, the study states.

Just three other counties, Klamath (31), Douglas (32) and Jefferson (33), ranked lower than Baker County in the area of health outcomes.

Benton County retained its first-place ranking in both health outcomes and health factors for the third year. Washington, Hood River, Clackamas and Deschutes counties were ranked second through fifth respectively. 

Hood River and Washington counties swapped places for second and third in the health factor ranking and Clackamas and Deschutes counties retained their fourth- and fifth-place finishes in that area of the study.

For the third year, the study did not include Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties because of inadequate data or data that were not comparable to other counties, according to the report.

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