Several central Illinois counties face stubborn public health challenges, according to newly-released health rankings.
The 2016 County Health Rankings were compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and were released Wednesday. Their goal is to inspire action to improve health.
Of 102 counties in Illinois, several Central Illinois counties ranked near the bottom, with Macon County ranked 78th, Christian County ranked 75th and Vermilion County ranked 91st.
The rankings are based on a number of factors including access to healthcare, obesity, smoking, education, employment, violent crime, pollution and more.
“It’s like a web,” explained Josiah Alamu, an associate professor in the Public Health Department at the University of Illinois Springfield. “We call it a web of causation. So you have to tackle this and tackle that other factor before you can achieve the overall goal.”
Alamu noted that one significant problem for several counties including Macon County is the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases, especially among children. Alamu said that problem calls for more serious action.
“I think we should do away with ‘Let’s raise awareness,’” Alamu said. “We’ve done enough of awareness. We talk to people about it. I think it’s high time for us to do boot camp. Talk about the disease transmission. Let them see the scary outcome of STDs.”
The report also noted a 79 percent increase in the number of drug overdose deaths nationwide since 2002.