Report: Duval's Not Very Healthy Urban Death Rate Highest in Certain Categories

Article excerpt

Duval County has a higher death rate than any other metropolitan

county in Florida, once statistics are adjusted to account for

the larger numbers of elderly in other parts of the state, a new

report concludes.

"Relatively speaking, Duval is not very healthy," said Fred

Huerkamp, executive director of the Health Planning Council of

Northeast Florida.

The report also places Duval in a swath of North Florida

counties that are -- statistically speaking -- less healthy than

the rest of the state.

Duval also has a higher death rate than the other urban counties

for specific categories, including heart disease, cancer,

stroke, lung disease, homicide, suicide, liver disease,

pneumonia and influenza.

The report was prepared as a cooperative effort of Huerkamp's

organization and Florida's 10 other local health planning

councils, which are not-for-profit agencies that routinely

compile medical industry research and do data analysis.

It was released to The Florida Times-Union last week.

The report does not say why Duval County death rates are higher

than other parts of the state.

"I think this report raises some questions," though it would be

up to local government officials or others to answer them,

Huerkamp said.

The report lists death rates -- that is, it takes the number

of people who died and converts it to a rate per 100,000. Rates

are used instead of raw numbers to make more meaningful

comparisons between counties or other geographic areas.

Why the Jacksonville area is higher than the rest of Florida is

open to debate.

"Maybe you should look at the socioeconomic situation," said

Joseph J. Tepas III, a pediatric trauma surgeon at University

Medical Center.

High poverty rates and low education levels are associated with

poor health. But according to income and education statistics

included in the report, Duval is similar to Hillsborough,

Pinellas and Leon counties, and better than Dade.

Also open to debate is the accuracy of the report's numbers.

One public health official said he had not seen the full report,

but the results appear to tell a different story than vital

statistics kept by the state Department of Health and

Rehabilitative Services. …