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Fairfax is Virginia’s healthiest locality

Northern Virginia counties and municipalities tend to be healthier than their counterparts in the southern part of the state, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report—from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin researchers—ranked counties by several health factors and other areas such as education, access to health care, and unemployment.

The report declared Fairfax County the healthiest area overall, followed by Loudoun and Arlington, both in northern Virginia; Albemarle, in central Virginia; and York, in eastern Virginia. Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington have filled the top three spots each of the survey’s four years.

In the Fredericksburg region, Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George counties all ranked in the top 33 in overall health measures. Stafford came in 18th, with King George in 20th and Spotsylvania at 32. Caroline County was 52nd; Louisa County was 70th.

But in the midst of what ranks as a generally healthy area lies Fredericksburg, which ranked 102 out 133 total localities in the state.

Some concerning statistics about Fredericksburg include:

  • Fredericksburg residents reported an average of 5.6 “poor physical health” days per month, compared to 3.2 percent statewide.
  • The city had a higher rate of premature death, as defined as people who die before age 75. Fredericksburg came in 93rd in the mortality measurement; by comparison, Stafford was 12th.
  • In morbidity measurements—people in poor physical or mental health, and the rate of low birth weight children—Fredericksburg was 104th.
  • Twenty-three percent of children in Fredericksburg live in poverty, compared to 8 percent in Stafford and 12 percent in Spotsylvania. The state average is 16 percent.
  • Forty-four percent of Fredericksburg children live in single-parent households. That rate is 27 percent in Spotsylvania and 21 percent in Stafford, and the state average is 30 percent.
  • Eighteen percent of city residents are uninsured; the state average is 15 percent, and the rate is 11 percent in Stafford and King George.

One bright spot for Fredericksburg: Only 33 percent of its restaurants were considered fast-food, compared to 55 percent for Stafford.

City residents also have greater access to recreational facilities—there are 16 in the city, compared to 10 in Stafford and seven in Spotsylvania, and a statewide average of 10.

There’s also a better ratio of doctors and dentists to residents in Fredericksburg than in the surrounding counties. Obesity and physical inactivity rates in Stafford, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, King George and Caroline weren’t far away from the state averages. Statewide 28 percent of adults are obese, and 24 percent are physically inactive.

Other notable statistics from the report:

  • The rate of sexually transmitted infections was noticeably higher in Fredericksburg.
  • Caroline County’s teen birth rate was higher than other localities around Fredericksburg.
  • Caroline and King George reported a lower rate of women getting mammography screenings than their neighbors or the state average.

Statewide, the southern half of Virginia had the highest rates of premature death, physical inactivity, adult smokers, residents in poor physical health, unemployment, children in poverty and uninsured residents.

At the bottom of the list is the city of Petersburg, whose premature death rate was more than double the state average and four times higher than Fairfax County. Petersburg also was last in behaviors such as adult smoking and obesity and physical inactivity, and worst in social and economic factors such as unemployment and poverty.

The rankings can be used by leaders in government, business and health care and by residents to “create a culture of health in their community,” Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement.

“Public health and the health care community play an important role in leading the way to sustaining healthy communities. But so much of what influences good health happens outside of the physician’s office,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Romero said in a statement. “What we eat, the safety of our communities, how much family and social support we have and our level of education and understanding all influence our health and well-being.”

THE RANKINGS

VIRGINIA’S TOP 10 OVERALL

1. Fairfax

2. Loudoun

3. Arlington

4. Albemarle

5. York

6. James City

7. Manassas City

8. Alexandria City

9. Manassas Park City

10. Prince William

OUR REGION

18. Stafford

20. King George

32. Spotsylvania

33. Fauquier

41. Culpeper

48. Orange

52. Caroline

70. Louisa

101. Westmoreland

102. Fredericksburg

ONLINE

To see how our region ranked in specific health categories, visit fredericksburg.com.

—Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Staff writer Chelyen Davis contributed to this report.

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