PETERSBURG, Va. — A new study assessing the health of every city and county in Virginia has one Tri-Cities locality ranked at the bottom of the list.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison released the 2022 findings of their County Health Rankings on Wednesday.
Petersburg was ranked “least healthy” among Virginia’s 133 localities.
UW Population Health Institute Director Sheri Johnson said socioeconomic factors weighed heavily in their results.
“What we know is that those conditions that we create are really important for health,” Johnson explained. “Things like whether families have enough income to meet their basic needs, whether families have safe and affordable housing — and this year, we focus also on things like whether adults can afford childcare so that they can go to work.”
Johnson and her team also factored in employment status, poverty levels, educational attainment, rates of premature death, and overall quality of life.
Health behaviors like obesity and STIs are also on the list, including instances of violent crime, children living in poverty, and the cost of daycare.
In Central Virginia, counties in Richmond’s suburbs are ranked higher while localities in the Tri-Cities were ranked at the bottom of the list.
Goochland, Hanover, and Powhatan counties placed 14th, 15th, and 16th respectively.
Henrico was ranked at 26th followed by Chesterfield at 27th.
Richmond City was ranked 96th. Hopewell, Emporia, and Petersburg were listed at 131 through 133, respectively.
Falls Church was ranked first while several Northern Virginia localities also placed high.
“Even within the highest-ranking counties it doesn't mean that all parts of that county or everyone in that county is having the same opportunity to live long and well,” Johnson stated. “Counties that are ranked amongst the highest have areas to improve, and gaps to close between groups with then that county.”
Crater Health District Director Dr. Alton Hart said he was “disappointed” with the findings.
“It takes time to improve the health of a community. I would tell people don't allow those numbers to discourage you from moving to these areas,” Dr. Hart said. “In fact, I would encourage you to come and roll up your sleeves and help us in helping to improve the health of our communities.”
Dr. Hart argued that much of the data used in the study is from 2019 and earlier. He said their coalition of non-profits, community partners, and other programs have been addressing these issues years before then.
“We plan to review all of the factors that influence the ranking using evidence-based community health assessment factors that actually influenced the ranking — these processes and incorporating them into a health improvement plan with the intent of improving health outcomes in the long term,” Hart said.