DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - Each year, county health rankings are conducted for every county across the nation.
Dougherty County is ranked 153 out of 159 counties for health outcomes in Georgia.
University of Wisconsin researchers analyze every county in the nation and then assign rankings within each state.
For nearly a decade we've been able to learn the health status of where we live.
Southwest Georgia Health District Public Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis said health outcomes show what Dougherty County has experienced and the health factor category looks at where the community is headed.
While we ranked low in the health outcomes category, in the health factors category Dougherty County ranked 126.
"The health factor rankings look at the potential for the community, taking into the consideration of the behaviors of individuals, resources in the community and the prevailing environment and that gives an idea of where we're headed," said Ruis.
Ruis explained Dougherty County has socioeconomic challenges. Poverty and crime reduce the wellness of the Dougherty County district as a whole.
Children are living in poverty at a very high rate.
"With 44 percent of our children living in poverty, we are going to continue to have low scores until we address that problem and have more prosperity in the community," said Ruis.
This percent compares to 23 percent of children living in poverty statewide.
The rate of children living in single-parent homes in Dougherty County is much higher than the state rate.
It is 63 percent in the county, compared to 38 percent in Georgia.
And violent crime is more than twice the state rate as well.
Ruis thinks educating people about health and well being is just one of the many ways we can help this region thrive.
"We want to make sure that we have job opportunities. We need food outlets so that no one lives in a food desert. So that everyone will have healthy choices for their diet. We need opportunities for exercise," said Ruis.
He said no one can solve all of these problems alone.
But there is one bright spot. In the clinical resources category, Dougherty County ranks 20th in the state because we have a good ratio of providers per capita.
"Fortunately, we do have a very good supply of primary providers in Dougherty County. We have one for every 1,100 citizens. And that's a better ratio than most communities in Georgia," said Ruis.
But the key is making sure everyone who lives in Dougherty County has access to health care providers. That includes not just transportation, but also cost of care for people.
"Part of the future of what we do relies on the individuals. And that takes into consideration things like our habits, whether we overeat, or under eat, smoke, consume excessive amounts of alcohol or other drugs. So if we eat right, and exercise right and seek medical care when we need to that will also improve the potential for the future," explained Ruis.
For more information on specific health factors for each county, visit the County Health Rankings website.