Area earns low rating in health report


Staff Writer

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nash and Edgecombe counties placed in the bottom half of North Carolina’s 100 counties in health rankings, according to a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The County Health Rankings rate the health of nearly every county in the country in terms of health outcomes and health factors. The 2018 rankings indicated that Nash County ranks 66th in the state for health outcomes, which are based on length and quality of life; Edgecombe County ranks 97th in the state by that measure, according to a press release by the Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities.

The report also indicates rankings for health factors, which take into account such issues as health behaviors, access to clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Nash County ranked 71st by the measure this year, while Edgecombe County ranked 95th of 100 counties.

Historically, both counties have struggled with low rankings, primarily due to socioeconomic conditions, the press release said. Each county has a higher-than-average percentage of people living in poverty. Nash County has a 17.8 percent poverty level while Edgecombe County’s is 25.3 percent. The state average is 17.6 percent.

However, the Twin Counties Partnership for Healthier Communities, a collaboration of 50 agencies across Nash and Edgecombe counties, is working to make a difference in the health and well-being of Twin Counties residents, said Rebecca Copeland, the Twin Counties Partnership coordinator.

“The Partnership is tackling issues such as access to physical and mental health services, physical activity, and healthy nutrition by creating a network of agencies and organizations to streamline efforts and increase coordination,” Copeland said in the press release.

Copeland said the 2018 County Healthy Rankings underscores the importance of this work. 

“It’s going to take the input of all the different sectors in our community to address these needs,” Copeland said. “The value of the Partnership is that it brings together organizations to share knowledge and effective strategies to improve health outcomes. We have these great agencies in our counties, and by working together we can positively impact the health and well-being of our residents.”

By creating synergy between local agencies, the Partnership, which was formed in 2015, hopes to amplify efforts and improve health outcomes, the press release said.

For example, at 9:30 a.m. on April 21, the Partnership will bring together mental health providers when it hosts the first ever Community Conversation on mental health. The event will take place at The Impact Center in Rocky Mount.

“Our community has so many great resources for all age groups. Talking about mental health can be powerful for reducing stigma and enabling people to use these resources to get help.” said Shakeerah McCoy, chairwoman of the Partnership’s Community Action Board. “The event will include a variety of agencies that support balance from a whole person approach including nutrition, active living, and financial support.”

McCoy said participants at the event will better understand mental health issues through the life story of the keynote speaker, Rwenshaun Miller, a licensed professional counselor, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, founder and executive director of Eustress Inc.

The Partnership conducted a community health opinion survey last spring. The survey provided the Twin Counties with reliable local-level data, a resource that many rural counties lack, the press release said. Over the course of six days, 44 interviewers in Nash and Edgecombe counties knocked on over 1,000 doors and interviewed 324 community members.

“The data helps the Partnership to identify opportunities for intervention, and gathering data is an important first step in addressing health disparities,” Copeland said.

With this information, the Partnership is creating a website where community members and Partnership agencies can go to find information on living healthy lifestyles, such as access to spaces for physical activity or farmers markets and vegetable stands. The website will also include a map that allows community residents to easily search and see community resources. 

The community health opinion survey was made possible through the support of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. For more information on upcoming Partnership events or to learn how to get involved, email Copeland at rlcopeland@nhcs.org.