Sugar is toxic. Childhood obesity is rampant. Stress will kill you. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Do this. Don’t do that.
Our ears are so full of health warnings that the rest of life’s magnificent sounds seem to have been reduced to ambient noise.
But if the results of a new study are to be believed, Rutherford County residents have made some happy sounds of their own by heeding the warnings.
Of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Rutherford ranks third in overall health behind only first-place Williamson and second-place Sumner, according to the 2012 County Health Rankings by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In addition to mortality and morbidity rates, the researchers took four categories of health factors into consideration:
• health behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, sexually transmitted diseases, drinking and motor vehicle crash rates;
• clinical care, including diabetic screening, mammographic screening, number of primary care physicians and preventable hospital stays;
• social and economic factors, like the number of people in poverty, number of children in single-parent households, violent crime rate and unemployment;
• and physical environment, which takes into account access to recreational facilities, air pollution, limited access to healthy foods and number of fast-food restaurants.
A somewhat puzzling development is the mid-range ranking in physical environment, 45th in the state, coupled with what I thought would have been a higher clinical care ranking, 13th statewide.
The county made up the difference with a second-place finish in social and economic factors, owing to Rutherford’s increasing population of upwardly mobile, well-educated residents, and a No. 3 ranking in health behaviors.
Education and access to accurate information sometimes can’t overcome the staggering number of combined life circumstances that can impede health and happiness for even the most fortunate among us.
That’s what makes the health behaviors numbers so impressive. They are the result of your own personal determination.
Rutherford’s rates of adverse, counterproductive, unhealthy behaviors are below the state average for every factor listed in the study.
To be sure, there is ample room for improvement.
Rutherford falls below the national benchmark in almost every category.
Some general impressions, which can be gleaned from the study results, are that the Southern states have the worst rates of teen births, sexually transmitted infections and children living in poverty.
What’s different about this year’s county health rankings is they are partnered with an interactive feature called “County Health Roadmaps.”
After reading the results for yourself, log onto countyhealthrankings.org/roadmaps and help design a plan for making your county even healthier.
Up to six communities presenting the best plans for improving overall health will get prizes of $25,000 each.
The money will go to a local government or tax-exempt, nonprofit organization designated by each community.
By the way, just in case you were wondering, Knox County was 10th, Davidson County was 15th, Hamilton County was 29th and Shelby County was 59th.
Enjoy the bragging rights while you work out at the gym or take your power walk on the Greenway.
Gina Logue can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.