Wednesday, 06 February 2019 15:20

Richmond County health report: Diabetes, teen pregnancies down; STDs doubled

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The Richmond County Board of Commissioners listen as Health Director Tommy Jarrell gives an overview of the county's health report. The Richmond County Board of Commissioners listen as Health Director Tommy Jarrell gives an overview of the county's health report. Chuck Thames - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County ranks 91 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in overall health outcomes — with 100 being the worst — according to the latest State of the County Health report.

Health Director Tommy Jarrell presented the report to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, noting that the county had slipped from 87 in the 2017 report. He added that it is still better than previous years.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation publishes a report annually and ranks 3,500 counties across the nation. The rankings represent how healthy a county is. 

According to its website, “Health outcomes in the County Health Rankings represent how healthy a county is. We measure two types of health outcomes: how long people live (length of life) and how healthy people feel while alive (quality of life).”  

“Diseases of the heart is our leading cause of death in Richmond County (25.5 percent) followed by cancer (18.6 percent),” Jarrell said.

The county’s current health priorities were set during the 2016 community health assessment and they include diabetes, infant mortality, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, according to Jarrell.   

There has been some progress made in the fight against diabetes. The number of county residents with diabetes has declined from 1,162 in 2016 to 1,107 in 2018.  

Infant mortality refers to children who die prior to their first birthday. 

“We did pretty good compared to our neighboring counties, but any infant death is too many,” Jarrell said on the subject.

Richmond County has a rate of 9.3 compared to the statewide average of 7.1.  In 2017, 25 infants died in Richmond County.

Teen pregnancy in 15- to 19-year-olds continues to decline in Richmond County. The rate was 76 births per 1,000 female population in 2015, decreasing to 53 in 2018. 

“Tremendous progress has been made … but we need to continue efforts to bring that number down even further,” Jarrell said. 

According to the data, Richmond County is still at almost double the overall teen pregnancy rate in North Carolina.  

Commissioner Tavares Bostic asked what other counties with better results were doing different. 

Jarrell said the counties with the better results were typically more affluent and had more activities to offer teens. He noted that the poverty rate was typically lower in those counties as well.  

Sexually transmitted diseases have skyrocketed in Richmond County in the last few years.  Chlamydia cases have more than doubled from 223 in 2016 to 460 cases in 2018.

“Something that got our attention quickly was the STD rate among teenagers,” Jarrell said.  

One emerging health issue in the county is preterm births. Preterm birth is a measure of the number of babies born in the 37th week of pregnancy or before. 

Out of the 574 births in 2017, 89 of those were preterm.

Jarrell said that there is a likely connection between these births and another emerging issue — opioid addiction.  

A task force was put together to work on this issue last May. The task force, according to Jarrell, is very active and meeting on a regular basis.