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Palm Coast Monday, Mar. 7, 2016 2 years ago

Just how healthy are we? Flagler leads in some measures, lags in others

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Racial gap apparent in Flagler County, state of Florida infant mortality rates
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County helped 16,298 people — with everything from dental problems to pregnancies to serious illnesses — in 2015, contributing to a Flagler County that is healthier than many of its neighbors.

"You indeed are blessed to have the best when it comes to community health," said Robert Snyder, of the Flagler County Health Department.

But Flagler is not at the top of statewide health rankings — in many cases, neighboring St. Johns is — and statewide numbers show large disparities in population health between counties that correlate with socioeconomic factors.

In terms of statewide rankings on major health measures, St. Johns tops less wealthy Flagler County, and most of the rest of the state. Flagler's health outcomes in state rankings are better than less wealthy Volusia County's, which are better than even less wealthy Putnam County's. 

Much of that, Snyder said, is likely the result socioeconomic factors, such as having health insurance, access to doctors and the ability to pay for care.   

St. Johns County had a median household income of $65,575 in 2015, while Flagler's was $47,733 and Putnam County's was $32,714.

Of the state's 67 counties, St. Johns ranked first in health outcomes, Flagler ranked 22nd, Volusia ranked 45th and Putnam ranked 65th. In terms of length of life, St. Johns ranked second, Flagler ranked 19th, Volusia ranked 46th and Putnam ranked 66th. In terms of quality of life, St. Johns ranked first, Flagler ranked 29th, Volusia ranked 50th and Putnam ranked 64th.

The trend for percentage of residents covered by health insurance goes the same way, with St. Johns leading the area at 88.6% covered in 2013, Flagler following St. Johns with 86.3%, Volusia following Flagler with 79.8% and Putnam at the bottom, with 73.5% of residents insured.

Flagler is doing better than the state average when it comes to the percentage of residents who are overweight or obese (57% in Flagler and 62.89% in the state of Florida) or physically inactive (45% of Flagler residents, 53% of Florida residents ), but a higher percentage of Flagler residents smoke (23% of Flagler residents, 18% of Florida residents) and the percentage of fatal crashes in Flagler County that are linked to alcohol (42%) is higher than the state average (29%).

The four major causes of death in Flagler County, in order or number of deaths, from most to least were cancer, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. 

The county has also had rising rates of  Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, with a total of 1,015 such cases between 2012 and 2014.

Future priorities for the Health Department include addressing the racial gap between infant mortality rates in Flagler County, expanding dental services with a dental sealant program that will begin in coming weeks in local elementary schools, expanding HIV services — HIV is up 89% in the county, with 17 new cases in 2015 — continuing Flagler Cares, and promoting Azalea Health, which promotes primary care for the uninsured and underinsured. 

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