Residents of Norfolk County continue to have the state’s best chance of living long, healthy lives, according to nationwide county health rankings released Tuesday.
Data compiled the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute found Norfolk County leading the commonwealth in a range of future health indicators, including high college-graduation rates and low rates of violent crime and single-parent families. The annual study, which also found Plymouth County trailing the rest of the state in several health indicators, is meant to highlight significant health disparities between counties and opportunities to address regional health issues.
“What the rankings have shown us is that not everyone has the same opportunity to live well where they live,” said Kitty Jerome, an outreach director for County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “Where you live matters.”
The rankings, now in their ninth year, have long put Norfolk at the top of the state for overall indicators of future health while ranking it somewhat lower for current health outcomes, which includes residents’ length of life and days spent each month in reported poor physical and mental health. For health outcomes, this year’s report ranked Norfolk County behind Middlesex County and the two island counties, Dukes and Nantucket.
This year’s report highlighted health inequities found in people of different races and ethnicities as well as counties, focusing in particular on babies born with a low weight, which has become more common in recent years after a decade of improvement. Low birth weight is associated with developmental and growth problems as well as a variety of health conditions later in a child's life.
“It has everything to do with their physical ability to live a full healthy life,” Jerome said.
In Norfolk County, the report found that 11 percent of black babies are born with a low weight, compared to 9 percent of Hispanic and 7 percent of white babies. The report also found a pregnancy rate of 4 in 1,000 for white teenage girls in Norfolk County compared to 10 in 1,000 for black and Hispanic teenage girls.
The report also found that the poverty rate among black and Hispanic children in Norfolk County -- both 17 percent -- was the lowest in the state for black children and the second lowest in the state for Hispanic children. It was also well above that for whites in Norfolk County, who have a childhood poverty rate of 5 percent.
The report, available at countyhealthrankings.org, did not include county-level data for Asian-Americans.