ANDERSON – Madison County sits at the bottom of the heap when it comes to health behaviors.
For the second year in a row, the county came in dead last statewide in terms of things like smoking, obesity and physical activity in the County Health Rankings.
For Madison County Health Department director Steve Ford, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the problems, and to build momentum toward solutions.
“We know what the problems are, but when you’re going to change people’s choices, it’s very difficult,” said Ford. “The solution is very complex and very involved.”
The County Health Rankings are developed annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The data show that Madison County residents are on a downward health trend, one that Ford and others in the community would like to reverse.
“It’s a long and slow process. We have to get the momentum going in that direction,” said Ford.
Among the health behaviors the study looked at, virtually all are significantly worse in Madison County when compared to national benchmarks which reflect the 90th percentile.
The data show 37 percent of the Madison County adult population is obese, with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or above. Statewide that number is 31 percent, and the national benchmark is 25 percent.
“Obesity is increasing and increasing rather sharply,” observed Ford.
The study determined that 30 percent of the county population smokes. Statewide that number is 24 percent, and the national benchmark is just 13 percent.
The percentage of persons aged 20 and above who get no leisure time physical activity is 34 percent. Statewide, 27 percent of the population is physically inactive. The national benchmark is 21 percent.
Other health behaviors where the county demonstrates higher rates are excessive drinking, motor vehicle crash death rate, teen birth rate, and sexually transmitted infections.