A new study shows counties in the northwest and central part of Arkansas tend to rank as the healthiest and counties in the south and east tend to rank as the least healthy. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s annual county health rankings report shows Benton County ranking number one in health and Phillips county ranking 75.
Dr. Namvar Zohoori, Deputy Chief Science Officer at the Arkansas Department of Health says the annual report has shown consistent geographical trends over the years. He says some of the most important health factors are diet, exercise and smoking.
“If you look at those three factors between Benton—which is number one and Phillips which is number 75—you’ll see stark differences in those. So, smoking is much higher in Phillips County. Adult obesity is much higher in Phillips county. And access to exercise is almost nonexistent,” he says.
Zohoori says chronic diseases like obesity reflect societal trends which can be difficult to reverse over a short period. He says the report, which has been released on an annual basis since 2011, has shown pretty consistent trends.
“The pattern is fairly similar. So we see consistently poorer rankings in the southeast and the Delta and the southern region. And consistently better rankings in the northwest and parts of central Arkansas,” he says.
Zohoori says the Healthy Active Arkansas campaign, initiated last year, intends to correct negative health trends by establishing nutritional standards, encouraging tobacco cessation and promoting access to public spaces. Arkansas is currently ranked as the most obese state.
Some statistics from the report:
22 percent of adults in Arkansas are smokers.
33 percent of adults are obese.
31 percent of adults over 20 report no “leisure time” physical activity
13 percent report excessive drinking
Read a summary of Arkansas-specific findings here.