By Erin Smith
Bladen County is a great place to live, play and work, but there remains much room for improvement, according to the County Health Rankings published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Bladen County ranked 95th among North Carolina’s 100 counties in the 2018 County Health rankings released recently. This is a slight drop from the 2017 County Health Ranking of 91st.
Bladen County Health Educator Marianne Valentiner said the data used to calculate the numbers cover the period of 2014 to 2016, which is more than two years old. She pointed out there are programs and initiatives that are being implemented in Bladen County such as the Opioid Task Force, the joint effort between the Bladen County Health Department and Cape Fear Valley-Bladen Healthcare to combat infant mortality rates, and the Safe Kids Initiative which has implemented a Child Safety Seat program.
“We try to put out information thorough Safe Kids,” said Valentiner.
She noted the Safe Kids offers such tips for parents and child care providers as Summer Water Safety, Gun Safety and more.
“We (Bladen County) have two child passenger safety technicians,” said Valentiner.
She said the Child Passenger Safety Technicians are state certified and can check your child safety seat for proper installation. Valentiner said this initiative can help to lower injuries and deaths of young children.
Valentiner noted one area where Bladen County had seen a marked increase was in the area of length of life. The calculation looks at deaths of individuals under the age of 75 years old. According to the County Health Rankings, the premature death measures the number of years of potential life lost. For example, if someone dies suddenly at the age of 50, that is 25 years of potential life lost. It does not make a distinction between deaths due to illnesses and deaths due to accidents.
Bladen County was ranked 58th in physical environment section of the rankings, which include factors such as air pollution, drinking water violations, housing issues and lengthy commutes to work. The rankings show Bladen was ranked 98th out of the state’s 100 counties in length of life, 89th in quality of life, 91 in health behaviors, 98th in clinical care, and 93rd in social and economic factors.
Valentiner said the county is also taking steps to try to improve the physical environment. She said Bladen County Parks and Recreation is partner with East Carolina University for a parks and recreation study to determine the needs for the county in terms of recreation. Valentiner also noted that the Health Department is planning to team up with the Bladen County Parks and Recreation once again this summer to offer Five Week Summer Camps. Valentiner said dates and locations will be announced later.
Among surrounding counties, Pender was ranked 27th overall in the 2018 report while Sampson was 79th, Cumberland was 73rd, Robeson was ranked at No. 100, and Columbus was 96th.
For 2018, Wake County was ranked as the healthiest North Carolina county followed by Orange, Camden, Union and Mecklenburg counties.
The County Health Rankings look at more than 30 different measures to determine the health of communities throughout the United States. Some key findings in the report demonstrate that overall, low birth weights are beginning to increase and economic limitations persist in some locations which limit residents’ access to healthy foods and medical care.
For an interactive look at North Carolina’s county rankings, visit http://www. countyhealthrankings.org/app/ north-carolina/2018/overviewShare: