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Is Columbus healthier than neighboring areas in Georgia? Here’s a breakdown.

This Warner Robins medical clinic provides free health care

Nurse practitioner Jaimi Norrell knows what it's like not to have health insurance. She started the Hands of Grace Free Medical Clinic in 2017 to serve Middle Georgia's growing uninsured population. The clinic has already treated over 300 patients.
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Nurse practitioner Jaimi Norrell knows what it's like not to have health insurance. She started the Hands of Grace Free Medical Clinic in 2017 to serve Middle Georgia's growing uninsured population. The clinic has already treated over 300 patients.

Bad news, Columbus.

Muscogee County is one of the unhealthiest in Georgia, and your northern neighbor, Harris County, was one of the ten healthiest, according to a breakdown of health data published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute through the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program earlier this spring.

The top five counties, in order, are:

  • Forsyth
  • Oconee
  • Cherokee
  • Fayette
  • Gwinnett

A majority of the state’s top 25 counties are in the northwest corner of the state. Fulton County, which includes almost all of the city of Atlanta, ranks 11.

Meanwhile, the state’s worst-ranked of 159 counties are concentrated in a swath from the southwestern border of the state near Columbus to its eastern border near Augusta.

The lowest-ranked five counties are:

  • Miller
  • Clay
  • Quitman
  • Twiggs
  • Warren

The counties immediately surrounding Columbus, however, performed better. Chattahoochee ranked 44, and Talbot ranked 77. The best nearby performer was eighth-ranked Harris County.

Muscogee County ranked 120 out of 159 counties. Why so low?

According to the data, Muscogee slipped much further behind nearby places because of several determining factors that directly or indirectly affect health:

  • People in Muscogee County die at an earlier age than most Georgians.
  • Only 48 percent of all Muscogee families own their home, and 19 percent spend half or more of their income on housing.
  • 33 percent of children grow up in poverty.
  • Muscogee County has a higher income inequality rate than the state average.

The median income for a Muscogee household is $42,600. That number differs when broken down by race. Black households make an average of $31,900 while white households make $56,300.

However, Muscogee County residents could see their future rankings improve. The county is ranked 61st in the state in health factors and 4th in clinical care overall — a ranking which measures things like the number of dentists, doctors and mental health providers per resident as well as factors like the percentage of Medicare enrollees that received a flu vaccine.

“That is a pattern we like to see,” said Ericka Burroughs-Girardi, who works for the rankings and roadmaps program . “People will start to have a better quality of life and live longer.”

The rankings demonstrated in the map above show health outcomes, which measures how long people live and how healthy people feel. The group also issues rankings for health factors — areas like education, employment, income, air and water quality and access to medical care — that influence the health of county residents and could indicate future improvements.

Data used in the ranking system comes from the most recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, Burroughs-Girardi said.

Details of the full report can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org. The group also offers policy and program recommendations to address public health issues.

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