2020 County Health Rankings

2020 County Health Rankings report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Georgia slipped to No. 46 among the states in a new ranking of health system performance, down from 42nd the previous year.

The new 2020 Commonwealth Fund report on states’ health system performance, released Friday, noted that Georgia performed well by certain measures.

Those include a high rate of diabetic adults having an annual hemoglobin A1c test, and improved mobility for home health patients. Georgia also improved in measures tracking children getting needed mental health care; and preventing catheter-associated bloodstream infections.

But the state’s ranking was dragged down by a high percentage of adults having no health insurance. Another weight pulling the state rating down was the percentage of adults who went without medical care because of cost.

As a result of these and other areas in which it did poorly, Georgia was ranked 49th on “Access and Affordability.’’

Of the 159 Georgia counties, Floyd County ranked 69th for overall health outcomes, according to the latest report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The rate of premature deaths — residents dying before reaching age 75 — was a leading factor. The county’s rate equaled 9,600 in every 100,000 people compared to the state average of 7,700. Counties that scored high nationwide averaged 5,500 premature deaths per 100,000 people.

Locally, the leading causes of death in resident under 75 were heart diseases, malignant neoplasms (cancerous tumors), accidents and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to the RWJF report.

Adult obesity also was more prevelent in Floyd County than in Georgia as a whole — 38% compared to 32%.

The county scored better than the state in terms of the availability of clinical medical care, including in the percentage of people who get flu shots and mammograms. However, the report — which uses last year’s data — said 18% of Floyd County residents were uninsured, compared to 16% in Georgia and 6% in te counties that ranked highest nationally.

The ratio of mental health care providers to residents was lower than the statewide average and significantly lower than in the highest-ranking counties in the country. The high school graduation rate was another bright spot among the factors that went into the assessment, but 32% of local children were classified as living in poverty compared to 21% in Georgia.

Rankings for surrounding counties offered a mixed bag. Bartow was listed as 36th out of 159; Polk was 86th; Gordon was 54th; and Chattooga was 120th.

Georgia as a whole

The low ranking in the Commonwealth Fund report isn’t an unusual place for Georgia to land. The state has typically ranked in the 40s on various scorecards relating to health and health care.

The Commonwealth Fund rankings cover the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., so the lowest possible ranking is No. 51.

The most recent data used are from 2018, two years before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state.

Colin Smith, a Georgia State University public health expert who was asked to review the findings, noted the percentage of Georgia employees’ salaries that goes to health insurance coverage (8.1 percent), which is worse than the national average (6.8 percent).

Smith pointed to the fact that Georgia has opted not to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. (Expansion has been adopted by 38 states.)

“Also, we have not held insurance companies accountable in Georgia for the increases in premiums and decline in coverage as some other states have,’’ Smith said.

Georgia was also ranked toward the bottom on meeting adults’ mental health needs; on preventable hospitalizations of adults; and on hospital 30-day mortality.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Iowa, and Connecticut ranked at the top of the scorecard, which evaluates access, quality, costs of care, health outcomes and income-based health disparities. West Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Mississippi ranked at the bottom.

The report said Americans are living shorter lives than they did in 2014, and African Americans are twice as likely as whites to die from treatable conditions.

This year, pandemic-related job losses have widened coverage gaps that existed before the crisis, the report added. Black, Latino and other communities of color, already more likely to be uninsured, have been disproportionately burdened by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout.

RNT night editor Diane Wagner contributed to this report.

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