The article below was written by journalist Allison Brophy Champion and published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on March 31, 2021.
Culpeper ranks No. 41 healthiest locality in Virginia
Culpeper County placed in the higher-middle range for healthiest places statewide in the annual County Health Rankings report released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The data collected from the U.S. Census and other sources is from 2019, providing a pre-pandemic picture of the state of local health.
For health outcomes, Culpeper ranked No. 41 healthiest out of 133 Virginia cities and counties, based on length and quality of life considerations.
Culpeper ranked 65 for health factors: determinants of health such as lifestyle behaviors, access to and quality of healthcare, social and economic behaviors and environment.
Life expectancy in Culpeper County is 77.9, according to the health rankings, compared to 79.5 years old for the statewide average.
Fauquier County ranked near the top statewide for healthiest localities at No. 12 for health outcomes and 22 for health factors.
For this area, Madison County ranked lowest for health outcome at No. 71 statewide and No. 53 for health factors.
Orange County came in at No. 52 and 56 respectively of the 133 Virginia localities ranked while Rappahannock ranked No. 43 in both areas.
A closer look at Culpeper County Health Rankings data showed a premature death rate of 7,500 per 100,000 population years of potential life lost before age 75 whereas the state average is 6,400 and national 6,900.
Under health outcomes, the rankings explored quality of life factors with 18 percent of Culpeper adults reporting poor or fair health.
Residents reported 4.1 poor physical health days per month and 4.4 poor mental health days.
Of babies born here, 7 percent had low birth weight, per the 2019 data. There were 22 teen births for every 1,000 of population of girls aged 15-19 and 11 percent of Culpeper children were reported living in poverty.
Twenty percent of Culpeper adults reported smoking cigarettes and the same reported excessive drinking while 33 percent reported obesity and 33 percent physical inactivity, according to the health rankings.
Those reporting adequate access to exercise opportunities was 67 percent.
Nearly half of the population in commuter-heavy Culpeper (48 percent) reported a long commute (more than 30 minutes) and driving to work alone.
Culpeper Wellness Foundation President Shari Landry expected areas of concern for Culpeper County – inactivity, obesity, alcohol use, smoking etc. – have only become more problematic as a result of the pandemic.
“Addressing these issues in a meaningful way is not easy, and now we have a whole group of people who were active prior to the pandemic but have fallen out of their exercise routines and are comfortable with their new lifestyle,” she said. “We need to find ways to encourage activity and healthier eating that appeal to different groups of people.”
Culpeper already has great parks, fitness facilities, sports groups and the Downtown Farmer’s Market, reopening for the season May 1 in the parking lot at Culpeper Baptist Church.
“We need to take small steps, taking our lead from residents themselves about their interests, and work together to engage people in healthier eating and physical activity,” Landry said, noting the many local people and organizations that have worked together to increase fitness amenities.
Addressing these issues is at the heart of the mission of CWF, she added, listing offerings at Powell Wellness Center, Culpeper Sports & Fitness and a new intensive diabetes outcomes program at the Free Clinic of Culpeper. CWF is also preparing to break ground on a new recreation center off of Lovers Lane, Landry said, that will offer various programs to get people up and moving.
“And, we will work with our local partners to reach people in every corner of our community –
providing activities that appeal to them and motivate them to get involved,” she said. “In true
Culpeper fashion, we will improve these health outcomes together!”
The health rankings noted as “an area of concern” the fact that 12 percent of Culpeper residents younger than 65 do not have health insurance. Another area of concern was the ratio of primary care physicians in Culpeper—one for every 2,730 people.
Areas of strength included the fact that 52 percent of residents reported receiving the flu vaccine in 2019, according to the health rankings.
Arlington County was the No. 1 healthiest county according to the rankings release Wednesday, followed by Loudoun, Falls Church City, Fairfax and Alexandria City.
The five localities with the poorest health were the cities of Petersburg, Galax, Covington, Martinsville and Hopewell.
“We at the Virginia Department of Health are extremely proud that Arlington and the rest of the
Northern Virginia region enjoy such good health, as recognized by the University of Wisconsin
Population Health Institute,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver in a statement.
“We know many factors affect public health, and the Commonwealth has made great strides in recent years, but we also know there are healthcare gaps that Virginia and its leaders must address going forward as we navigate our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will not let up in our efforts to create healthy communities and improve healthy outcomes for all people in Virginia,” he said.
For the full report, see countyhealthrankings.org – The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, works to improve health outcomes for all and to close the health disparities between those with the most and least opportunities for good health.