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
"Relatively speaking, Duval is not very healthy," said Fred
Huerkamp, executive director of the Health Planning Council of
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,
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
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. …