Report highlights health concerns

OKEECHOBEE — Many Okeechobee County residents had health problems in 2016.

The annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps released by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation ranked Okeechobee as the 62nd healthiest county in Florida.

The annual ranking takes into account outcomes, length of life, quality of life, health behaviors like smoking and obesity, available clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

Okeechobee ranked worse than the state in premature deaths, percentage of citizens who reported poor or fair health, (23 percent), but did better than the state in percentage of low birth weight infants, with 8 percent, compared to the state at 9 percent.

Adult smoking was a problem as 21 percent smoked in Okeechobee, compared to a national average of 14 percent and a state average of 16 percent.

Okeechobee obesity rates of 31 percent were higher than the state and nation which tied with 26 percent.

Physical inactivity was another problem area as 30 percent of Okeechobee residents said they were physically inactive compared to 19 percent in the nation and 23 percent in Florida.

Only 42 percent of Okeechobee residents said they had access to exercise opportunities compared to 91 percent in the nation and 92 in Florida.

Okeechobee also had a higher rate of excessive drinking at 16 percent; the national average is 12 percent and the state reported 17 percent. The county also had 35 percent of alcohol impaired driving deaths compared to 13 percent in the nation and 28 percent in Florida.

The report also showed double the state percentage of births to teen moms.

Okeechobee County also reported 27 percent of the population with no health insurance compared to 8 percent nationally and 20 percent in Florida.

Okeechobee County also had fewer doctors, dentists and mental health providers per 1,000 population than the state average. Access to mammograms and diabetes monitoring were lower in Okeechobee.

Social and economic factors included high school graduation rates with 66 percent in Okeechobee County, 95 percent in the nation and 78 percent in Florida. Okeechobee County had a jobless rate of 6.2 percent compared to 5.4 percent in Florida and 3.3 percent nationally. In Okeechobee County, 35 percent of children live in poverty, compared to 23 percent in Florida, and 12 percent in the nation. The report found 46 percent of children in Okeechobee live in single-parent households compared to 38 percent in Florida and 21 percent in the nation.

One bright spot — Okeechobee has a much lower rate of violent crime than the state average.

The report showed Okeechobee had less air pollution than the state average. The county has about the same housing shortage as the state.

Glades County ranked 45th overall in the rankings this year, with 19 percent of residents reporting poor or fair heath, and higher than state average smoking rates, obesity, physical activity, access to exercise, and teen births.

In Glades County 28 percent of the residents lacked health insurance. The county does not have a private physician and also lacks dentists and mental health providers. Glades County reported 33 percent living in poverty last year.

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