Opt to know your quality of life: Recent report provides a stark look at the differences where we live make

FOR A LOOK  at the complete rankings: countyhealthrankings.org.

One old proverb goes, you cannot choose your family.

And by virtue of that fact, you cannot choose where you’re born, either.

For those born in West Virginia often more interesting is what county you’re from.

Why is it interesting? Judging by a recent report  from the nation’s largest philanthropy focused solely on health and a university’s health institute, much of the quality of one’s life is left to fate.

Where you were born or live makes a vast difference in your quality of life. How long you live, the ratio of dentists to residents, unemployment, graduation rates, children in poverty, etc.

Of course, that is unless you’re an exception to the data or until you venture out into the world and find a new tribe.

This week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released its annual County Health Rankings/Key Findings Report.

The good news is Monongalia County ranked No. 2 overall in West Virginia with positive indicators in many categories few, if any, counties are even close.

Yes, there are a few negatives, too, such as excessive drinking  and STDs, which do little for our image.

However, most of the data in this report point to a place you might thank your lucky stars you live or were born.

Next door, Preston County was ranked No. 22 and as you would imagine, its data reflect a rural county with far greater ratios of residents to health professionals and a higher jobless rate. Numbers for teen births,  children in poverty, access to exercise opportunities and achievements in education are also telling

Yet, at the very same time, its numbers for excessive drinking, STDs and its rates of severe housing problems pale in the wake of Monongalia’s.

Let’s be clear. Our premise here and this report’s purpose is to simply bring attention to our strengths and weaknesses. From there the hope is that public officials, health professionals, educators, nonprofits, businesses and residents, all alike, identify the priorities.

As one program officer for the foundation put it, to determine “… the biggest needs in the their community, and then do something about it.” We second that sentiment and urge everyone to take a look at this information.

There are a lot of schools of thought about how fate and self-determination applies to any of us.

Yet, a community that pulls together for the greater good using viable information can alter the course of fate for the many, too.

No, we all don’t have the same opportunities. But we can often choose to do better.

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