March 25, 2016

The most obese and least healthy counties in NM

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It’s no secret that New Mexico has a wide divide in regions and counties on a number of issues, including health.

man&doctor_webThe blog 24/7 Wall St looked at the most obese county in each state and the least healthy county in each state. It was not the same county for each ranking.

In New Mexico, the most obese county is Lea County, in southeastern New Mexico. The center of the oil patch in southeast New Mexico has a 34.7 percent obesity rate; the nation’s obesity rate is 27 percent, while New Mexico overall is 23.6 percent.

One reason for the high obesity rate in Lea County? A lack of exercise. 24/7 Wall St. finds that “just 67% of adults exercise regularly.”

But Lea County still is not the least healthy county in the state. That dubious honor goes to rural McKinley County in western New Mexico.

The county is predominantly Native American; over three-quarters of the population are Native American. As with many Native American-heavy areas in the state, unemployment is high (9.8 percent) and household income is very low ($29,497 median income per year).

The 42.9 percent rate of child poverty is also extremely high.

So how did 24/7 Wall St. come about these numbers? For the obesity rankings, the website “reviewed county-level health data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.”

The site noted that most of the counties listed as most obese are rural, low-income areas.

“In such areas, the nearest grocery store with healthy food options may be far away,” the authors wrote.

When it came to determining the least-healthy counties, the website “reviewed county-level health rankings from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.”

They also looked at “the incidence of premature death and self-reported levels of health — that is, how long and how well residents live.”

Child poverty is one of the socioeconomic indicators 24/7 Wall St. looked at as well.

Again, as in the obesity rankings, rural areas are seeing problems not seen in urban or suburban areas, such as an increase in premature deaths and a dearth of health care options.

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