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Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 12:10pm

Talbot County Ranks Lowest In Health

A new report ranks west Georgia's Talbot County the state's unhealthiest.

It says metro Atlanta's Fayette County is Georgia's healthiest county.

Taken together, the report highlights the state's urban and rural health divide.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin researchers published the report looking at more than 3,000 counties nationwide.

The rankings include health behaviors like smoking, access to clinical care and the physical environment.

A cluster of poor, rural counties south of the Columbus-Augusta fall line score low while Metro Atlanta and North Georgia score high.

West Central Public Health Director Beverly Townsend's district includes lowest-ranking Talbot County.

She notes a lack of resources there that would boost local health.

"Unfortunately, in that small county, for our local health department, we have one nurse," Townsend says. "And they don't have a supermarket there anymore. That actually closed."

The study is aimed at changing public policies.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Associate Scientist and the Deputy Director for the Robert Wood Johnson funded project at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, says the reports shows a divide in health outcomes between wealthier urban counties around Atlanta and the high-poverty areas in the state's south and west.

"It's harder for people to have a living wage job," Townsend says. "If your income is low, it's more likely you're going to be uninsured. If you're uninsured, it's less likely you'll get health care or preventive health care and you don't see the doctor until you're very, very sick."

Van Dijksays, low rankings sometimes spur communities to act.

For three years, the state's healthiest county has been Fayette County south of Atlanta.

Quitman and Calhoun Counties in the southwest have traded places with Talbott at the list's bottom.