Riverdale residents have to drive by a Dunkin’ Donuts to get to the city’s park. A new University of Wisconsin report states there are too many fast food restaurants and not enough recreation facilities in Clayton County.
JONESBORO Clayton County has too many fat people, too many fast food restaurants and not enough recreation facilities for its own good, according to a new study released Wednesday.
The county ranked as the unhealthiest in the 10-county region served by the Atlanta Regional Commission in the University of Wisconsin and Robert Wood John Foundation’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report. The region also includes Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties.
Five of those counties ranked among the 10 healthiest in Georgia, with Fayette County coming in at the No. 2 spot. Four more were also within the top 30.
Clayton County was ranked No. 42 out of the state’s 159 counties. Joel Hall, spokesman for the county health department, said local officials need time to review the data.
“They want to wait and read the report before we can comment on its findings,” Hall said.
On the one hand, Clayton County’s ranking may seem decent when compared to the rest of the state. However, a deeper look at its numbers in 30 subcategories ranging from adult obesity, to inactive adults, to the percentage of restaurants serving fast food and to the number of recreation facilities show some unhealthy trends.
It should be noted that the most recent data researchers provided is from between 2009 and 2011. They looked at information from several agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Clayton’s obesity rate is highest in metro Atlanta
Thirty-five percent of adults in Clayton County were obese as of 2009, according to the report.
That number is high enough to make it the most obese county in the 10-county area served by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Statewide, Clayton County is tied for Georgia’s ninth-most obese county.
Obesity means a person’s body mass index exceeds 30 and is generally considered to cause a number of health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension or coronary heart disease.
Cobb, Fayette and Fulton counties were tied for the lowest obesity rate in the Atlanta region at 24 percent. DeKalb and Gwinnett counties were the next lowest at 26 percent each. Then came Cherokee and Henry counties at 28 percent, followed by Douglas County (31 percent) and Rockdale County (32 percent).
Georgia’s obesity rate is 28 percent, but researchers recommend it not exceed 25 percent.
Other numbers in the report show why Clayton County’s obesity rate may be so high. Twenty-nine percent of residents are not physically active, compared to 24 percent statewide. The ideal number, according to the report is 21 percent.
Additionally, fast food restaurants made up 64 percent of all restaurants in Clayton County at that same time, whereas they made up only 50 percent of all restaurants in Georgia. Researchers recommended the number not exceed 27 percent.
There were also only two recreation facilities for every 100,000 people in the county at the time, according to the report. Statewide, the ratio is eight facilities for every 100,000 people.
However, the county built the South Clayton Recreation Center in Lovejoy since the data was collected. The center is set to open at the end of the month and construction is expected to begin soon on another recreation center east of Jonesboro.
Eventually, the county will have five recreation centers and two senior centers.
There should ideally be 16 recreation facilities for every 100,000 residents, according to the report.
Other health risks exist
Between 2008 and 2010, Clayton County residents lost 7,780 years of life that could have been lived before they reached the age of 75, according to the report.
Clayton County ranked No. 39 in the state in mortality rates, and No. 66 in morbidity. However, its place in the rankings dropped to No. 126 in the health behaviors areas, such as adult smoking (21 percent as of 2011), sexually transmitted infections (735 for every 100,000 residents in 2010) and teen birth rate (60 child born for every 100,000 teenagers in 2010).
It ranks No. 122 in clinical care, where factors such as the number of uninsured residents, preventable hospital stays, diabetic screening and mammography screening are evaluated.
Twenty-seven percent of Clayton County residents were uninsured as of 2010, which is higher than the statewide figure of 22 percent.
However, it’s the physical environment evaluations, including access to recreation facilities and the percentage of fast food restaurants, where the county posts its worst showing in the rankings. It is ranked No. 149 in that area.
Full data and rankings, as well as information how to improve the health of a community, can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org/.