How Does Georgia Rank When Looking at Various Health Factors?
Friday, February 9th, 2024
The annual Healthy Georgia Report has been released by Augusta University’s Institute of Public and Preventive Health and it gives a snapshot of how Georgians stack up against not only neighboring states, but the country when it comes to a variety of health topics.
This year’s report has added information on adult dental health, poor mental health, skin cancer and overdose deaths. Information on HIV risk behaviors, breast cancer screenings and colon cancer screenings have also returned
The report has been delivered to lawmakers, community leaders and researchers in Georgia to provide them with tangible figures on how Georgia is faring in numerous topics. The goal is to stimulate conversations about public health needs and, in turn, promote action, such as policy changes, greater community engagement and the appraisal of funds.
Biplab Datta, PhD, assistant professor in the IPPH and the Department of Health Management, Economics and Policy, has collaborated with other IPPH faculty and staff to update the report. Datta has seen the impact this can have with state leaders.
“They have a good appetite for data driven policy changes. I think this report actually helps them in that direction,” said Datta. “We tried to present data in a way that policy makers may find helpful in deciding on appropriate policy choices.”
Overdose deaths is one of the new categories this year and is a hot topic nationwide. The report shows Georgia has the sixth lowest rate of overdose deaths in the country. Datta said that’s good, but the number is trending upwards and now should be the time to take steps to prevent it from getting worse.
“We cannot be satisfied. We are doing a good job but need to be on our toes to prevent it from further ascending,” Datta said.
Another category that Georgia is trending in a good direction is cigarette smoking. But the opposite is true for the obesity rate in the Peach State. The data shows Georgia has the 14th highest rate of obesity in all of the U.S. and the number is on the rise.
The data also shows it’s related to household income and education. Adults who are below the federal poverty line and without a college degree are significantly more likely to be obese. Also, those in the 18-to-49 age group have a high rate of obesity compared to the national and regional average.
“That is problematic because if someone is developing some cardiometabolic conditions in this age group, they will be at high risk for adverse cardiovascular events at an older age. So we need to focus on food habits, physical exercise, and other health promoting behaviors to prevent and control obesity,” Datta said.
Another interesting topic is those in Georgia who have health insurance coverage. While coverage in adults is second lowest in the nation, there is a slight uptick in the number of people who have coverage from the past few years. The number is much better for children with health insurance. He points out that many state programs like PeachCare for Kids may account for the differences.
Datta said one topic that definitely needs to be investigated more is cancer rates. He said we observe a low prevalence rate, despite the common perception and other data sources suggest a relatively higher incidence rate of cancer in Georgia. He believes we may be seeing lower survival rates that are not included in the survey.
“I think we need more investigation into this particular issue,” said Datta. “Why are we seeing so low numbers of cancer prevalence when we know that cancer incidence rates are very high in Georgia?”
The Healthy Georgia Report is the only report of its kind in the state
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