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Study: Hardin County improves statewide health ranking

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Despite 13th ranking in state, evaluation is short of national norms

By Sarah Bennett

Hardin County continues to rank as one of the healthiest counties in Kentucky, according to a national study.

Hardin ranks 13th in health outcomes and 18th in health factors out of the state’s 120 counties, according to data released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

LaRue County ranked 14th in health outcomes and 30th in health factors.

Health outcomes examine issues such as poor or fair health, premature birth and low birth weight, while health factors include smoking, obesity and child poverty.

“County Health Rankings” compare the overall health of nearly every county in the country. According to a news release, data are based on a range of factors that influence health, such as high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking and availability of physicians and dentists.

The county outperformed the state as a whole in nearly every area but failed to reach many national goals.

Linda Sims, public health director for the Lincoln Trail District Health Department, said Hardin County improved slightly over its 2012 rankings. Last year, Hardin County ranked 15th in the state and in 2011 was rated 14th in health outcomes, for instance.

The county rates fair in its availability of physicians, Sims said, but could improve in many of the socioeconomic factors, such as decreasing the number of children in poverty and increasing access to affordable healthy foods.

Issues such as obesity and healthy lifestyle choices are a growing concern, she said, and the district is investigating grant options that could allow it to make its dietitians and health educators more available and affordable to the community.

“So much of our health is driven by income,” she said.

Hardin County is fortunate to have more access to jobs than other areas of the state. According to the study, the county’s unemployment rate sat at 9 percent as opposed to the state’s 9.5.

Since 2010, excessive drinking increased from 6 to 8 percent of the population.

The rate of chlamydia has risen from 211 cases per 100,000 population in 2010 to 660 in 2013.

The teen birth rate remained steady at 54 per 100,000 pregnancies but continues to rank slightly above the statewide average.

The high school graduation rate has remained steady at 83 percent while the percent of population with some college education rose from 59 to 60.

The number of children in single-parent households has risen from 33 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2013. The percent of children in poverty rose to 24 percent — a 1 percent increase from the previous year. Since 2010, the percentage of children in poverty in the county has climbed from 16 percent.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.