Where do we rank in state?

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WALLA WALLA -- Out of 39 counties in Washington state, Walla Walla County comes in at No. 18 in terms of the health outcomes of its population.

In the County Health Rankings study from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Walla Walla County fared one step up from Garfield and just below Skamania counties. Columbia County came in at No. 16.

In health factors, however -- defined by the study as components that influence the health of a county -- Walla Walla County came in at No. 6 from the top, measured by our health behaviors, clinical care, plus social, economic and physical environment factors.

Those factors include alcohol and tobacco use, sexual activity, diet and exercise, education, community safety, access to care and more.

While we have a community that could be labeled "medically rich" and enjoys high-quality clinical care, there is also a high poverty rate in Walla Walla County, noted Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department.

"We have a large number of kids living in poverty," Crowder said.

Teen birth rates, traditionally high here, remain so.

"Part of that is cultural and part of that we can deal with," the administrator said this morning.

Excessive drinking and smoking rates are low and adult obesity rates echo state and national numbers.

"One of the big messages that come out of this is education and economics," Crowder said, adding that many of local health woes are being addressed by the Community Health Improvement Project.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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