Sure, exceptions exist. But study after study, many of them reputable, say the same thing: Unhealthy habits endanger our lives.
This week, two more studies again hammered these points home.
One study, by the website 247wallst.com, used a variety of medical, federal and demographic data to rank Alabama as having the nation’s second-worst eating habits. (Mississippi was the worst.) The site’s description of Alabama was compelling:
“Alabama residents consume 77 gallons of soft drinks per capita per year, the fourth highest amount in the country. This is roughly 33 percent more than Oregon, which consumes the least. Soft drinks like cola have more sugar per ounce than nearly any other food we regularly consume, and it is clear that soda has helped contribute to Alabama’s poor health outcomes. The state has the seventh highest obesity rate and, predictably, the second worst diabetes rate. More than 12 percent of the state’s adult population has the disease.”
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute released this week its county-by-county health rankings. That data dump was good for residents of Shelby County, which researchers determined is Alabama’s healthiest county.
It wasn’t good news for residents of Calhoun County, which researchers ranked 45th out of the state’s 67 counties. Most of the information held to the findings of previous studies: On average, Calhoun County scores poorly on mortality rates and key health factors such as adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking and teen birth rates.
If there was a positive for Calhoun County, it was its No. 10 ranking in clinical care, which includes categories such as the number of uninsured adults, the number of primary care providers and the availability of diabetic screenings.
Statewide, the University of Wisconsin study strongly reaffirmed what health officials have long known about Alabama: Health trends largely follow the same income and education levels seen throughout the state.
On average, counties that have higher income and education rates are healthier; counties that are poor and less educated are not. Thus, Shelby, Baldwin and Madison counties scored well. The Black Belt counties came in near the bottom.
The lesson is old, yet simple. Everything’s interconnected. It’s not only a matter of eating right and exercising more. It’s about educational opportunities leading to higher incomes, which often lead to healthier lifestyles. The data, repeated again this week, say as much.