By Tammy Gray
Navajo County once again ranked poorly in health outcomes and health factors when compared to other counties throughout the state.
According to a report recently unveiled by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, Navajo County comes in 12th among the state’s 15 counties for health outcomes and 13th for health factors. The only area in which the county received high marks was for the physical environment, which included measurements of air pollution, water safety, housing issues and commute times.
The county scored particularly low in social and economic factors, as well as length and quality of life. In social and economic factors, Navajo County ranked 14th among the 15 counties with an estimated 43 percent of the children living in poverty compared to the statewide average of 27 percent, and had an unemployment rate of 15.2 percent compared to the state average of eight percent. Navajo County did stack up well in the high school graduation rate, with an average rate of 78 percent compared to the state average of 77 percent; but fell behind in the college attendance rate with an average of 49.3 percent of the population having at least some college education as opposed to the statewide average of 62.1 percent.
In criteria used to judge quality of life, Navajo County fell short with a larger than average number of low birth weights and a high number of adults reporting that they were only in fair to poor health. A high number of days spent in poor physical health were also reported.
Premature death, which is described as death before age 75, was also prevalent within Navajo County. According to the report, county residents lost a total of 12,512 years of potential life due to premature death, compared to the statewide average of 6,714.
Navajo County fared poorly in health behaviors, especially in the rankings for teen births, sexually transmitted diseases and access to exercise opportunities. Teen births averaged 68 per 1,000 teen females. The statewide average was 49 per 1,000. A total of 847 new cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people were diagnosed in Navajo County during the study period, compared to 465 per 100,000 statewide. In addition, only 48 percent of the county’s population was found to have “adequate access to exercise facilities” as opposed to 86 percent of the state’s population.
The county ranked 10th across the state for clinical care, with positive marks for a better than average ratio of residents to primary care physicians and dentists being negated by a low number of mental health care providers, low rates of diabetic and mammography screening, and a high number of preventable hospital stays. Navajo County has a ratio of 1,431 residents for every mental health provider compared to a statewide average of 839 residents for every mental health provider. The ratio of mental health care providers is similar to the number of primary care physicians, however, with Navajo County having one primary care physician for every 1,427 residents. The average ratio throughout the state is one for every 1,533 residents. The report also noted that 23 percent of the population in the county under the age of 65 does not have health insurance. The statewide average is 20 percent.
In overall health outcomes, Gila County was ranked at the bottom and La Paz County at number 14. Neighboring Apache County came in at number 13, while Navajo County’s neighbor to the west, Coconino County, was ranked at number six. Arizona’s most populous counties dominated the top of the rankings, with the exception of small Santa Cruz County, which came in at number one. Maricopa County ranked second, followed by Yuma County in third, Pinal County in fourth and Pima County in fifth.