For the most part, local counties finished in the middle of the pack in a recent study of national health rankings. That should have public health officials concerned.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin study considered factors such as smoking, drinking, unemployment and more.
In the Northern Panhandle, Ohio County fared the best, ranking 12th in West Virginia.
Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said that was "about where we should be" given Ohio County's access to hospitals and universities. Other Northern Panhandle counties ranked as follows: Marshall, 15; Hancock, 16; Tyler, 18; Brooke, 23; Wetzel, 29.
In Ohio, Monroe County ranked 43rd; Belmont, 56th; Harrison, 63rd; and Jefferson, 80th. There is room for improvement.
Public health officials, educators, law enforcement and others can do much to improve local counties' health. They should work together to curb smoking and to increase economic development, which in turn would reduce unemployment and, perhaps, alcohol and drug use. That would help improve the area's overall quality of life.