By Max Hrenda
Although a recent survey showed an overall improvement in health scores in Northeast Tennessee, a closer look at Carter and Johnson counties reveals issues still persist.
Known as the 2013 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, the study – a joint effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute – measures Health Outcomes, which rank a county’s current health status, and Health Factors, which measure the steps a county takes to become healthier.
When combining these two factors, both Carter, at 61, and Johnson, at 70, scored in the bottom half of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
Although both counties’ scores were among Tennessee’s lowest, each offered bright spots.
Ginny Kidwell, program director for the Tennessee Institute of Public Health, said the counties can use the positive information as a starting point to move toward better health.
“I think you have to focus on what you’re doing right,” Kidwell said. “The important thing is to get the community together, in all walks of life, to look at what you can do to change.”
Local public health officials approach the data with a similar goal. Caroline Hurt, director for Carter and Johnson counties’ health departments, said her office uses the study as a sort of research tool.
“It’s taken as one of several metrics,” Hurt said. “We would use this to guide us in the right direction to identify those programs, services, partnerships, and things we can do to move the needle in the right direction, toward health and prosperity.”