Buncombe County is the 25th healthiest among North Carolina's 100 counties, according to national rankings released Feb. 17. The county also ranked third in the state in clinical care, sixth in health behaviors, 12th in social and economic factors, and 13th in physical environment.
The rankings were produced by the County Health Rankings initiative, which created similar reports for all 50 states. The initiative is a joint project of the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Although Buncombe did quite well in health behaviors and clinical care, the physical environment, (including access to healthy food) as well as the social and economic factors — which are highly weighted elements in the study — pulled the overall rating down.
In an announcement released by the Buncombe County Health Department, Director Gibbie Harris cautions that the rankings may not be as good as they seem.
"Being in the healthiest 25 percent of N.C. counties is great," Harris says in the announcement, "but remember that North Carolina is in the least healthy 25 percent of America on most of our health indicators, according to the N.C. Institute of Medicine. We're not close to being as healthy and productive as we can be."
The announcement also points out that because the rankings are based on old data, they might not be as accurate as the health assessment the county is currently conducting.
"These rankings in no way show any impact of the recent recession," notes Harris. "We have many more people unemployed and many more without health insurance compared to when this data was collected."