Health in Pearl River County not as bad as reported

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Health rankings for Pearl River County show there is room for improvement, but the overall health of the county is not as bad as reported by WLOX in Biloxi.

According to a story by WLOX on April 10, this county is the tenth unhealthiest in the nation. However, the information presented in that story comes from another source, took information from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report for 2012 and ranked only 1,000 of the nation’s most populated counties. That number is less than a third of this nation’s 3,141 total counties reflected in the report by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.

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According to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps web site, Pearl River County ranks 42nd out of Mississippi’s 82 counties for health outcomes, which is the site’s representation of the county’s current health ranking. County Health Rankings and Roadmaps does not compare county health with other counties in the rest of the nation, only within states.

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps advises against comparing counties across states, stating in the frequently asked questions section, “We advise caution in comparing the health factors measures across states because our measure for health factors are only uniform within states, not across states.”

While the information presented by was selective, Pearl River County does have statistics that could cause concern but other information shows the county is doing better than most of the state.

According to information directly from County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, this county’s premature death rate of people less than 75-years-old between the years of 2006 to 2008 was 12,162. That figure was more than the national benchmark of 5,466 and the statewide average of 10,811.

National benchmark figures are a representation of rankings for counties in the top 10 percentile nationwide.

There are also an abundance of fast food restaurants within the county. The reports states in 2009 of all of the restaurants within Pearl River County, 63 percent were fast food establishments. The national benchmark is 25 percent, and the state average is 55 percent. In 2006 only 2 percent of the county population living in poverty lived within 10 miles of a grocery store that sold healthy foods. State-wide the average was 11 percent and the national benchmark was 0 percent.

Of the county residents surveyed between the years of 2004 to 2010, 32 percent reported being smokers, and 33 percent were reported as being obese in 2009. The national benchmark was 14 percent for smoking and 25 percent for obesity during the same time frames. State-wide averages were 24 percent for smokers and 36 percent for being obese.

The results show there were 39 deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes between the years of 2002 and 2008, the national benchmark was 12 and the state average was 31.

Sexually transmitted infections of Chlamydia for 2009 were also above the national benchmark, but far below the state average. Pearl River County had 275 reported Chlamydia infections, compared to the national benchmark of 84 and Mississippi’s average of 803.

Teen birth rates between the years of 2002 to 2008 were below the state average in this county. Pearl River had 58 births compared to the state average of 65. The national benchmark in that category was 22.

Pearl River County reported one of the better marks for the number of infants born weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces between 2002 to 2008 in Mississippi. Between those years 9.4 percent of births in the county fell into that category. State-wide 11.8 percent of births fell into that category. The national benchmark was 6 percent.

Graduation rates between 2008 and 2009 reflect that of the total number of freshmen entering high school, 73 percent graduated. No national benchmark was provided but Mississippi’s average was 71 percent for that same time frame. Between the years of 2006 to 2010 Pearl River County had 51 percent of high school graduates enroll in some form of post-secondary education, such as vocational/technical, junior colleges or universities. That figure includes people aged between 25 and 44, whether they received a degree or not. The national benchmark was 68 percent, and Mississippi’s average was 54 percent.

The number of children the age of 18 living in poverty in Pearl River County was 32 percent in 2010, the same as the state-wide average. Nationwide the benchmark for that statistic was 13 percent. The percentage of children living in single parent households between 2006 to 2010 was 30 percent in Pearl River County. State-wide the average was 44 percent, and the national benchmark was 20 percent.

Pearl River County also had a low number for violent crimes, compared to the state-wide average. Between 2007 to 2009 there were 155 violent crimes in the county, compared with the state wide average of 317. The nationwide benchmark for violent crime was 73.

County wide, 13 percent of the population reported excessive drinking between 2004 and 2010, which includes binge drinking of four drinks for women or 5 drinks for men on a given night in a 30 day period, or heavy drinking of one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men daily. State-wide, the average was 11 percent and the national benchmark was 8 percent. Pearl River is a dry county, with beer and light wines sold in Picayune stores. A vote to approve the sale of liquor by the drink at food establishments was passed in November 2010.