Persistently high smoking and obesity rates have again left Douglas County near the bottom in annual health ratings released today.
Douglas County ranked 30th, the same as last year, out of 33 Oregon counties when it comes to overall health and longevity, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Three of Oregon’s smallest counties weren’t rated. Only Baker, Jefferson and Klamath counties received poorer grades. The three healthiest counties, in order, were Benton, Grant and Washington.
Counties are ranked on a broad range of factors, most of which vary little from year to year.
Among Douglas County residents, 23 percent rated their health as fair or poor, rather than good. That is slightly worse than last year, when 21 percent reported being in fair or poor health. This falls well below the 14 percent state average.
The rate of children in poverty increased from 28 percent to 33 percent. The statewide average is 23 percent.
“It’s a little disappointing that we haven’t made more improvement, but it just gives me something to work on. Thirtieth out of 33 is pretty worrisome,” said Roseburg pediatrician Bob Dannenhoffer, CEO of Architrave Health in Roseburg,
Douglas County’s public health promotion manager, Marilyn Carter, said she was hoping the county would improve this year.
“It’s hard to lead a healthy lifestyle if you don’t live in a healthy community,” she said.
The percentage of adults who smoke dropped slightly to 24 percent, a 2 percent decrease from last year. But obesity rates increased 2 percent from last year to 33 percent.
Statewide rates are 16 percent for smoking and 26 percent for obesity.
According to today’s report, Douglas County has one primary care physicians for every 1,604 residents. The statewide average is one doctor for every 1,115 residents.
Dannenhoffer said Mercy Medical Center and DCIPA, The Physicians of Douglas County, are continuing to recruit doctors to the area.
“We’ve been pretty successful and have recruited a bunch of new doctors,” he said. “We think that having an adequate workforce is one of the real keys.”
The percentage of uninsured residents stayed the same, at 19 percent both this year and last. Oregon’s average is 18 percent.
Dannenhoffer said he hopes the number of uninsured residents will drop to 10 or 12 percent because of the Affordable Care Act.
He said approximately 6,000 people have signed up for Medicaid and a few thousand through Cover Oregon. This should drop the uninsured rate significantly, he said.
“It’s still way too many, but it will be way better than it is now,” he said.
Despite the unimproved ranking, Carter said the community is working together to increase overall health.
“I am confident that these numbers are going to start to get better,” she said. “We are making some headway.”
Wheeler, Gilliam and Sherman counties weren’t ranked.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.