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Report: Wide Gaps In Health Among MS Counties

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A new report says 2,300 premature deaths could be avoided in Mississippi if everyone in the state had the same health care opportunities. 

The study, released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looks at the health gaps among counties in every state, including Mississippi. 

“For each of the state reports, we looked in the state," says Don Schwarz, a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "So the gaps that we’re talking about, and the 2,300 excess deaths in Mississippi, are when we compared the healthiest to the least healthy county in Mississippi. We’re not comparing Mississippi to New York or California. We’re comparing Mississippi counties to other Mississippi counties.”

The report uses information from county health rankings that are released annually. In 2015, these rankings found DeSoto County had the best health outcomes in Mississippi and Madison the best health factors. Quitman County had the worst health outcomes and factors. 

This new study looks at the top and bottom 10% of counties and measures the gap between them. For example, the rate of smoking varies from 17% in the best Mississippi counties to 27% in the worst.

“But then also for comparison, we also provide the best counties in the US, and in those, only 14 percent smoke, so it just highlights where there are opportunities for improvement," says Bridget Catlin, coordinator of the county health rankings and roadmaps program at the University of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which produced the report.

The report also includes examples of strategies that could narrow the gaps. In smoking, for example, it suggests smoke-free policies, limits on tobacco marketing and increasing tobacco prices.