Health data points to progress, work to be done

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 15, 2019 at 9:00 PM

According to a health data study released last week from SmartAsset, Washington County ranks fourth among Tennessee’s healthiest counties.

But Washington County Health Department Director Christen Minnick says there’s still work to be done when it comes to improving the county’s overall health.

While Minnick said Washington County fares well when it comes to immunization and access to primary care providers for those with insurance, Washington County still needs to work on providing care for the nearly 10% of county residents recorded as uninsured.

Minnick added that “mental health days that allow people to go to school or go to work and feel well enough to participate in those daily activities that contribute to the health and prosperity of Washington County” should also be more widely encouraged.

Some of the county’s health obstacles remain related to behavior. Washington County’s adult smoker rate, which sits at 21.1%, remains a key area of concern for local health officials.

About a decade ago, Minnick worked to educate people in Washington County about tobacco use to prevent others from taking up smoking. Through education initiatives and public policies such as the 2007 Non-Smoker Protection Act, Minnick said rates eventually declined by nearly 4%.

“At that time, when I was in that role about 10 years ago, we saw that our rates were closer to 25%,” she said.

“Those things have all contributed to our decrease,” she later added. “It doesn’t sound like much of a decrease or change that’s happened, but really, that is, and it takes a long time to see behavioral related changes take place.”

Minnick said “there’s really not been a whole lot of change” in adult obesity rates, despite some decreases in childhood obesity rates. According to the study, adult obesity stood at nearly 30%.

Despite these two areas of concern, Washington County ranked third in the state for its low rates of excessive drinking, which stood at 13.6%.

“That just shows that people understand what moderation means. They can still enjoy an alcoholic beverage, but maybe not necessarily take it to excess,” she said.

“That’s always something Washington County has performed really well in, which is a good thing.”

However, Tennessee still remains 43rd in the nation in terms of overall health.

“We’re still in the bottom 10,” Minnick said. “I think that if we are looking at all these data points, we can make better choices and decisions.”

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