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Monongalia County tops in state’s county health rankings

MORGANTOWN — When it comes to the state’s 2022 county health rankings, it’s a good news, bad news situation.

Monongalia County is No. 1 in a state that’s … decidedly not. 

That, in a nutshell, is how Monongalia County Health Department Epidemiologist Luke Moore explained the rankings, which list counties based on health factors and health outcomes.

“Health outcomes” is evenly divided between length of life and quality of life.

“Health factors” is more nuanced, and made up of: Social and economic factors (40% — education, employment, income, family and social support, community safety); health behaviors (30% — tobacco, alcohol and drug use, diet and exercise, sexual activity); clinical care (20% — access to care and quality of care); physical environment (10% — air and water quality, housing and transit).

Monongalia County is the state’s best in both health outcomes and health factors. Jefferson County ranks second in both categories.

Preston County ranks 17 in outcomes and 24 in factors while Marion County is 19 and 12, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, McDowell County is 55 in both categories. Logan County is 54 in outcomes and 53 in factors and Mingo County is 53 and 54 respectively.

“Think about things like public transportation. We have very good public transportation. We have two large hospitals. We have a children’s hospital that will be opening,” Moore said. “We have a lot of access to things that other counties do not.”

Moore summed up the rankings with a personal anecdote about a recent 8:30 a.m. appointment to see a specialist, where he ran into a family from Mingo County.

“It’s not that big of a deal for me because I live here in Morgantown, but coming all that way, four hours, from Mingo County. That’s a significant burden,” he said.

And while Monongalia County is the best in West Virginia, the bar isn’t incredibly high according to national standards.

The 2021 Americas Health Rankings report listed West Virginia at 48 in health outcomes, 47 in social and economic factors, and 44 in behaviors.

In other MCHD news, Environmental Health Program Manager Todd Powroznik said he’s working with Public Information Officer MaryWade Burnside on public education regarding ticks and Lyme disease.

Powroznik said West Virginia is currently a hot spot for Lyme disease and local hospitals have stepped up testing for the tick-borne illness.

His comments came the same day Gov. Jim Justice announced he was seeking treatment for the disease.

Powroznik said MCHD is also seeking grant dollars that would fund the trapping and testing of ticks.

Lastly, Powroznik said the county recently received its first positive rabies test of the year from a raccoon on Pedlar Run Road.

The animal exposed a dog and its owner.

“The dog was not up to vaccination standards. So they basically had two options. They could euthanize the animal or it’s a 180-day, double-barrier quarantine. That’s what they’re going to do,” he said. “That’s a cage inside a cage. It seems inhumane. Only one person can take care of this animal for the next six months.”

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