A study released Wednesday ranked Clay County as the least healthy county in the state for the second year in a row.
The fifth annual County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states.
Out of the 159 Georgia counties, the study ranked Forsyth County as the healthiest in the state, followed by Fayette, Oconee, Gwinnett, and Cherokee. The five counties with the poorest health are Clay, Taliaferro, Warren, Stewart, and Turner.
Forsyth County was also ranked first last year, an improvement from its second place spot on the list in 2012. However, Clay County went from bad to worse in 2012 when it dropped from number 100 to 159 on the state’s least healthy counties.
This year, Health Rankings added some new factors to the yearly study, including a food environment index, which looks at what happens when people can’t afford enough food to feed their families, or don’t have access to healthy food. The study also evaluated access to health facilities and exercise opportunities such as a gym or a pool.
While Clay County’s 34 percent rate in obesity isn’t much higher than the state’s 28 percent, residents who live in the county have significantly less access to exercise facilities.
“One of the things we are seeing are gaps between the least healthy and healthiest counties,” says Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean of the University of Wisconsin.
During a Wednesday webcast to discuss the study, Remington says twice as many children live in poverty in the least healthy counties in the country, compared to the healthiest.
Clay County has almost twice the number of children living in poverty compared to the state average, and nearly seven times the number in Forsyth County.