An unhealthy community: Out of 133 places in Va., Martinsville ranks 129 | Local News

The 2022 County Health Rankings National Findings Report has been released and out of 133 cities and counties in Virginia, Martinsville is among the unhealthiest.

The city of Martinsville is rated 129, ahead of only the cities of Galax, Hopewell, Emporia and Petersburg.

In the region, Danville is at 127 followed by the counties of Henry at 112, Pittsylvania at 98, Patrick with 95 and Franklin ranking 67th on the list.

“The rankings in the last two years or longer of this global pandemic show people sheltering in place,” said Marcus Stone, Martinsville-Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness executive director. “Doctors’ visits that are non-emergency are being delayed by the patient, and checkups and followup appointments have been neglected. This has contributed to the rankings you see.”

Falls Church, Arlington and Loudon, all cities in Northern Virginia, top the list of healthiest communities in the commonwealth.

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Rated as the healthiest locality in the state, the city of Falls Church, 10 percent of the population there is considered to be in poor to fair health compared to 22% in Patrick County, 23% in Henry County and 25% in Martinsville.

While the percentage of smokers in the healthier areas of the state is in the single digits, 22% of Patrick County residents light up while 23% of the people in Henry County smoke and a fourth, 25%, of Martinsville’s population are smokers.

Obesity has become a worsening problem across the country and while healthier regions are wrestling with rates under 30%, Patrick County is at 33, Henry County is at 39 and Martinsville tops out at 40% of its population considered to be overweight.

The Coalition runs two federally subsidized health clinics in Henry County, in Bassett and Ridgeway, and as of October it has been operating the dental clinic on Fayette Street.

“This has allowed people to get connected,” said Stone. “We’ve been able to refer dental patients to our other clinics if they are in need of medical care, and we refer patients in need of dental care to the dental clinic. We believe that this will help to improve the overall rankings in the community.”

While tobacco use and obesity are common markers of unhealthy communities, excessive alcohol consumption can also be a contributing factor to poor health, but surprisingly while Falls Church shows 20% of its population as drinking too much, that number falls to 18% in Patrick County and 15% in Martinsville and Henry County.

The leading cause of death for people under the age of 75 is cancer in Henry and Patrick counties and heart disease in Martinsville. In all three localities, accidents, lower respiratory disease and diabetes round out the top five causes of death.

Consistently, areas that are more affluent, have less unemployment and more education are generally the healthiest.

“Those factors do contribute to health scores that are lower: poverty, employment, education—they can certainly contribute to multiple pieces of the survey,” Stone said. “We realize in healthcare, education contributes to how people receive information, but it’s not only the education level; more often it is a result of language barriers. We have multiple languages now and cultures.”

The poverty rate in Martinsville and Henry County is high enough that all children in both school districts qualify for free breakfast and lunch.

“We know populations of poverty focus on different things,” said Stone. “It’s difficult to make healthcare a priority when you are trying to make ends meet. When you are financially challenged it limits your ability to focus on these things. ‘How do I make a living or support me and my family?’ It really becomes multi-faceted and requires an awareness and knowledge that this is not their focus because they are focusing on survival.”

The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (CHR&R) is a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the data it gathers is used to build awareness of the many factors that influence health in communities across the country. Unique to the CHR&R from other similar studies is its ability to reach into nearly every county in all 50 states, giving healthcare leaders such as Stone an unprecedented ability to compare one locality with another and spot emerging trends.

“We have input from different organizations working diligently in the community creating access and awareness and we need the participation and engagement of individuals,” he said. “We need to make sure that people have the tools and that we teach them how to use those tools. If we are to guide this community to a healthier future, we need to work together toward that goal. If we continue working, then I most certainly think we can move the ranking in a more positive light, but we need to keep motivating our population.”

Findings in this year’s study reveal that across the country, a living wage now averages $35.80 an hour for a household with one adult and two children, and economic insecurity exists in nearly every city and county in the country. Women earn little more than 80 cents on the dollar men earn; childcare accounts for 25% of the income of a household with two children; and schools that are equipped with the resources they need are critical to creating a sustainable healthy community.

“In the end we need to make sure people establish a primary care provider and have regular visits to prevent illness,” Stone said. “It’s much easier to prevent illness than to try to fix, cure or treat an illness.”

Stone offered a reminder to anyone having difficulty finding access to healthcare that the Ridgeway Family Health Clinic and Bassett Family Practice are accepting new patients.

“We know there are providers that are retiring and moving out of the area, but we are taking new patients and we offer care on a sliding scale,” said Stone. “We’re also taking new patients at the dental clinic, so we urge everyone to connect with a provider and be more preventative and proactive about your healthcare.”

MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness now operates Community Dental Health Clinic

Crabtree: Dental Foundation appreciates support

WATCH NOW: Martinsville area is one of the unhealthiest in Virginia

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-591-7543. Follow him @billdwyatt.


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