Study drops Buncombe’s “healthiest county” ranking from 14th to 19th in North Caro

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For the third year in a row, Buncombe ranks in the top 20 of North Carolina’s healthiest counties, according to the County Health Rankings project. But that’s down from 14th place last year. The project, a national study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows Buncombe in the 19th spot overall. Factors in the “physical environment” category — such as the number of fast-food restaurants, access to healthy food and drinking-water safety — could account for the lower ranking.

The project looks at health outcomes and health factors in six categories: mortality, morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

This year, Buncombe ranked as one of the top 20 N.C. counties in five of those categories: mortality (18th), morbidity (17th), health behaviors (7th), clinical care (6th) and social and economic factors (15th). However, when it came to the physical environment, the county ranked 74th out of 100 counties in the state.

Despite the overall drop, Buncombe County made significant strides in the percentage of its low-income population with limited access to healthy foods, which improved by 44 percent.

But even if Buncombe had managed to take the No. 1 spot (those bragging rights belong to Wake County), North Carolina ranked No. 33 in the nation for overall health in 2012, according to the American Health Rankings 2012.

— Send your health-and-wellness news and tips to Caitlin Byrd at cbyrd@mountainx.com or mxhealth@mountainx.com, or call 251-1333, ext. 140.

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