County/Parish health rankings released

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - On Tuesday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual County Health Rankings for 2012.

The rankings look at how healthy people are in nearly all counties across the U.S. and project how long they will live.

The national health report said 339,000 people were diagnosed with diabetes last year. Doctors involved in the study have issued Americans a prescription for a healthier lifestyle.

Health critics say Americans are the fast track to getting diabetes and tipping the obesity scales. Doctor Patrick Remington, Director of the County Health Rankings project, said the study holds everyone accountable for the nation's declining health.

"The County Health Rankings point out that health is every body's responsibility," Remington said.

In Louisiana, St. Tammany is ranked the healthiest parish. East Carroll came in last. In our area, Ascension Parish ranked 3, St. Helena ranked 55, and East Baton Rouge came in on the healthier side of the bar at 17.

This year, experts added two more measures, physical inactivity rates and the number of fast food restaurants in each community. Fast food establishments are lined up almost on top of one another on most city blocks. Experts have also noticed more people are sitting, and at the same time, smoking. Remington believes parish leaders should start focusing on offering their citizens more healthy options.

"It's important to have healthy schools, places where people can work but also healthy behaviors. All these communities combined lead to a healthier community," Remington said.

In response to a similar report back in 2008, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden kicked off a campaign called "Healthy BR." The initiative pulls health industry workers, professors and hospitals together to coordinate healthy living activities in the parish. It includes one well-known event that rolls every April, the Mayor's bike ride.

Brian Gallagher, President of United Way Worldwide suggests every community get on the same path of what he calls road map-focused strategies. They include eating healthy, exercising and better access to healthcare.

"If we can get the strategies at the national level, then we can replicate across the country," Gallagher said.

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