For the most part, West Virginia's Northern Panhandle landed in the middle of the pack when it came to statewide health rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with only Ohio County (12th), Marshall County (14th) and Hancock County (19th) cracking the top 20 among the state's 55 counties.
That's not a very good sign for an area that has access to quality health care, education and recreational opportunities.
Perhaps the study's most concerning find locally is that Ohio County, even with a countywide smoking ban in effect for several years, has a higher percentage of adult smokers than the state average. County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said his department continues to address the issue through education and enforcement of the public smoking ban, and we urge that effort to continue.
Tyler County finished 26th in the study, with Wetzel at 27th and Brooke, 29th. Public health officials in those counties have much work to do to ensure their residents continue striving for better overall health, particularly as health care costs continue to climb.
Studies such as this are good indicators of the work our area needs to do to improve public health. We urge local health leaders to take the study's results seriously so residents can enjoy a lifetime of healthy living.