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Healthy and unhealthy: A tale of two Georgia counties

7:19 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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GRIFFIN, Ga. -- In metro Atlanta, one cannot find a less healthy county than Spalding County, according to a new ranking compiled by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

RELATED | How healthy are Georgia's counties?

Forsyth County is a prosperous suburban Atlanta county with a median household income of $85,137. It's also the healthiest county in Georgia, according to the University of Wisconsin study.

Spalding County is not so prosperous. Its unemployment rate is fifty percent higher than the state average, and twice that of Forsyth County.

The two counties are both in metro Atlanta, 65 miles apart, but are polar opposites, health wise. The study not only measures health, but contributors to health.

For example, Forsyth county's high school graduation rate is higher than the state average. Spalding's is below it.

High School Graduation Rate
Forsyth Co. 86%
Spalding Co. 59%

Forsyth has far fewer single parent households than Spalding County.

Single Parent Households
Forsyth Co. 13%
Spalding Co. 46%

It also has far fewer children living in poverty.

Children in Poverty
Forsyth Co. 10%
Spalding Co. 35%

Many of Spalding County's actual health measures are significantly below the Georgia average-- and way below those of Forsyth County.

Its rate of adult obesity is 38 percent higher than that in Forsyth County.

Adult Obesity
Spalding Co. 32%
Forsyth Co. 23%

Spalding County's rate of violent crime is more than five times that of Forsyth County.

Violent Crime Rate
Spalding 451
Forsyth 89
per 100,000 people

Spalding County's motor vehicle crash death rate is twice that of Forsyth.

Fatal Crash Rate
Spalding Co. 20
Forsyth Co. 9
per 100,000 people

Its rate of sexually transxmitted diseases is more than eight times higher than that found in Forsyth.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Spalding Co. 437
Forsyth Co. 51
per 100,000 people


Forsyth County has changed a lot in recent years. It has more children and fewer elderly people than the state average. 90 percent of its population is urban or suburban. The healthiest counties on the list are suburban.

Contrast that to Spalding County, a county where more than 40 percent of its population is listed as rural. And that's a characteristic common to all the counties at the bottom of the health list -- limiting the population's access to doctors and dentists, and more healthy lifestyle choices.

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