Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Delaware getting healthier but Kent Co. lags behind

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin released their annual county health rankings Wednesday. And by most measures, Delaware is getting healthier.


But Kent County continues to be the state’s least healthy county by nearly every measure.


It leads Delaware in rates of obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, tobacco use and mental stress. 


That's not for lack of trying, according to Paul Silverman of Delaware’s Department of Public Health. But improving public health is no simple task.


“The problems that we’re facing today are so complex and interwoven with society that for many of them there is no single approach,” Silverman said. 


For example, the state is battling the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts. It’s educating kids about addiction, monitoring opiate prescriptions in hospitals and expanding access to treatment.


But despite all these actions, opiate overdoses are quickly rising, according to the report.


“More people are now dying from overdose deaths than dying in motor vehicle crashes, according to GiridharMallya, a senior policy officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Kent County has the state’s highest rate of drug overdose deaths and the highest rates of premature deaths.


Mallya said this connection is not incidental. And Silverman said it clearly illustrates what most public health officers already know: social and environmental conditions are more important factors in your health than individual behaviors, like smoking, or access to medical care.


"In other words, your zip code is more important to your health than your genetic code,” Silverman said. 


And people in Sussex County zip codes continue to be the healthiest in the state.


Statewide health factors like violent crime, sexually transmitted diseases and air pollution are all down in the state, according to the report.

Related Content