Feb 262014

By Tammy Gray
Navajo County ranked 12th among Arizona’s 15 counties in health outcomes, according to a report unveiled in December by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a group dedicated to creating healthy communities.
While the area received favorable ratings for healthcare costs, HIV prevalence, violent crime rates and airborne particulates, it scored poorly in several other key areas, such as premature death, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, children in poverty and access to recreational facilities.
According to the report, the years of potential life lost due to premature death per 100,000 people was 11,848 in Navajo County, compared to the state average of 6,850 and the national average of 5,317. Premature death is defined as death before age 75.
Nearly 32 percent of adults in Navajo County are considered obese, according to the report, while 25 percent are considered obese statewide, which is the same as the national average. Additionally, the region is reported as having limited access to healthy foods, but a high number of fast food restaurants.
The chlamydia rate in Navajo County is much higher than the statewide average, at 559 cases per 100,000 people. Statewide, the rate is 385, which is still far above the nationwide average of 92 per 100,000 people.
Navajo County has the highest percentage of children living in poverty in the state, according to the report. Approximately 45 percent of children under age 18 are considered living in poverty in the county, compared to the statewide average of 27 percent and the national average of 14 percent.
Access to parks and recreational facilities is also low compared to the state average. The number of recreational facilities per 100,000 people is three in Navajo County, compared to seven for the state and 16 for the national average.
The region ranked close to the state average in several key categories such as the number of uninsured children at 11 percent, inability to visit the doctor due to cost at 14 percent and adult smoking at 17 percent.
Other areas where the county ranked poorly include infant and child mortality, the ratio of mental health providers to patients, low birth weight, physical inactivity, auto crash death rate, diabetic screening, unemployment and preventable hospital stays.
Statewide, Maricopa County was at the top of the list for the best health outcomes, followed by Santa Cruz, Yuma, Pinal and Coconino counties in second, through fifth place, respectively. Counties that ranked lower than Navajo County include La Paz, Apache and Gila.