Health rankings show Roanoke City falls short

New county health rankings show disparity between the city and Roanoke County

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - A new county health ranking report shows that your health depends on where you live. The contrast in the Roanoke Valley is particularly drastic.

"Unfortunately, in just a very small radius geographically, we see a very large disparity between those living in the city of Roanoke and those living in the county of Roanoke." said Pat Young, the director of Healthy Family Strategies for United Way of the Roanoke Valley.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute released their annual report measuring health outcomes and health factors. Outcomes include mortality rates and quality of health during people's lives. Factors include things that impact outcomes, like smoking, exercise or access to good doctors.

Since last year, Roanoke City's health outcomes got worse, dropping from the 104 to 113 in the rankings. However, the city's health factor rankings improved, moving from 112 to 108. Roanoke County's rankings stayed about the same.

The report's findings line up with Carilion Clinic's Roanoke Valley Community Health Assessment. Roanoke City is more racially and ethnically diverse and many people who live in the Northwest and Southeast are medically underserved.

Young is also the director of Healthy Roanoke Valley, a partnership of organizations and nonprofits trying to bridge that gap between the county and the city. She says socioeconomic factors, like education level or income, are the biggest determining factors when it comes to health.

"Lack of transportation, poverty," Young said. "Access to safe, affordable housing."

Another barrier is a lack of healthy food. That's why Carilion launched Morningside Urban Farm, which officially opens this year. The goal is to teach people about healthy foods and eating habits and provide them with fresh produce.

Young says Roanoke Valley is seeing positive change when it comes to overall health, but change takes time. Now, stakeholders need to reach out to people who are struggling to get their say.

"It takes generations for us to get where we are," Young said. "It takes generations to see improvement, too."

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