Suffolk average in health rankings

Published 9:26 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

The city of Suffolk ranked in the middle on most metrics scored in county health rankings release recently by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The city ranked 59 out of 133 localities in Virginia. Most of the items in the report were ranked using data from the last few years.

“Some of the main issues that stand out to us from the health department perspective are low birth weight and the infant mortality rate,” said Dr. Christopher Wilson, director for the Western Tidewater Health District. “So, to improve those things we do a lot of work outside of what you normally expect from a health department.”

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The rankings reported 9 percent of Suffolk’s infants weigh in at under 5.5 pounds, which is considered a low birth weight. The infant mortality rate is 8 per 1,000 live births within a year.

“We have a Nurse-Family Partnership. They go out on home visits for moms early on in their pregnancy and through the early years of their baby’s lives,” Wilson said. “We continue to follow and make sure these kids are meeting developmental milestones and get everything they need.”

These nurses still visit expecting and new moms no matter where their home is, because some of the moms can be homeless.

“This is part of a bigger regional initiative to keep babies safe when they are sleeping at home,” Wilson said.

The city sits at 109 out of 133 in obesity, and the Western Tidewater Health District also actively searches for partnerships to help with Type 2 diabetes.

“If we are all focused on one thing and what we try to do, we can have a bigger impact on health in the community. That’s part of the bigger work that we do,” Wilson said.

Wilson said what’s called the “built environment” is improving in Suffolk.

“I think the city has been doing a great job of focusing on making the city more livable, walkable and bike-able,” Wilson said. “People will be healthier if they have more opportunity to make them healthier.”

Suffolk’s clinical care is better than the state average with uninsured residents. According to the county health rankings, only 9 percent of Suffolk’s population under 65 are uninsured.

“The Virginia Plan for Well-Being guides what we do, and it helps us build healthy connected communities,” Wilson said. “We are carefully assessing health in Suffolk and getting everyone focused on the same things so our impact as a whole can be better.”

Suffolk has continued to lower the number of children in poverty after a spike in 2014. The city sits at 17 percent of children under 18 in poverty, according to the county health rankings.