Ohio, Marshall, Brooke Counties Rank Among Top 10 Healthiest in West Virginia

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble

Ohio, Marshall and Brooke counties rank near the top of West Virginia’s healthiest counties in the 2019 County Health Rankings data released Tuesday.

The state-by-state report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Ohio County ranks fifth in the state for health outcomes. In this category, Marshall County is sixth and Brooke County is seventh among West Virginia’s 55 counties.

Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County health department, said Tuesday, “In Ohio County, the overall health outcomes rank, compared to the other counties in West Virginia, has improved over the last two years. Marshall County was just behind Ohio County in the health outcome rankings.

“These high rankings show that the overall quality of life in our area fares better than most of the state of West Virginia,” he said.

For health factors, Ohio County ranks fourth in the state, while Brooke County is 13th and Marshall County drops to 30th place.

The administrator said, “Overall, Ohio County fared well in this year’s County Health Rankings publication. The factors that contribute to the county’s health factors including health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment, social and economic factors can be difficult to improve in just one or two years.”

Gamble, who also provides administrative services to the Marshall County health department, said, “In the coming years, Marshall County will need to work to improve these factors. Both counties do need to address the overall adult obesity rate and the number of sexually transmitted infections.”

Meanwhile, Hancock, Tyler and Wetzel counties don’t fare as well as their Northern Panhandle counterparts in the health rankings.

Tyler, at 26th, and Hancock, at 27th, are in the top half of West Virginia counties for health outcomes, but Wetzel, at 34th, falls into the bottom half.

Those three counties show a mixed bag of results for health factors. Their rankings are Tyler, 18th; Hancock, 23rd; and Wetzel, 37th.

The County Health Rankings annual report develops rankings for each county and state utilizing data sets that describe individual health behaviors, education and jobs, quality of health care and the environment.

Gamble said, “Compared to last year, the rankings for West Virginia and our area changed little, mainly because changes in obesity rates or access to health care take time.

“Health rankings and rates can be improved, but it will take the effort of the entire community,” he added.

Looking at one specific behavior that was measured, Gamble said, “The report does show that the percentage of adult smokers in Ohio County is 19 percent, which is below the overall rate for West Virginia. Marshall County’s adult smoker rate is higher at 22 percent, although below the state average of 25 percent.

“This is one area where we can improve through individual choices and decisions as well as changes in our environment through no-smoking limits,” he said.

According to the report, adult smoker rates in the region include Brooke County, 19 percent; Hancock, Tyler, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson, all at 21 percent; Belmont, 22 percent; and Wetzel, 24 percent.

On a positive note, Gamble said, “Another area we are making progress with is access to recreational facilities. The efforts of our schools, private businesses, youth organizations, rails to trails and governmental organization are opening up more opportunities for residents to engage in physical activity.”

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