The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used 30 factors to rank the health of all Mississippi's 82 counties. They included access to doctors, education, income, housing and transportation. Quitman, ranked last with Coahoma, Jefferson, and Marion Counties right behind it. Bill Knight who publishes the Quitman County Democrat newspaper explains rural counties like his struggle with poverty and a lack of education. The unemployment rate is 15 percent and there's limited access to healthcare.
"Access to doctors is limited in Quitman County. We have one small privately-owned community type hospital. Doctor Care, Physician Care. There are a couple of clinics that are operational within the county, both of them located in Marks." said Knight.
Knight added healthy foods are limited. There's one grocery store in the county seat of Marks. According to the U.S. Census Bureau nearly 23 percent of Mississippians live below the poverty level. Dr. Rick DeShazo at the University of Mississippi Medical Center says, access to healthcare is a socioeconomic problem.
"They're impoverished. They don't have much education. They're in rural area. Those are the folks that you are seeing that have bad health in the state." said DeShazo.
DeShazo says educating people about the connection between their behavior and their health is critical. He says, DeSoto, Rankin, Madison, and Lafeyette Counties, are at the top of the list because they are close to large employers, earn more money and have access to healthcare and quality foods. The rankings are available at: www.countyhealthrankings.org