Tech company: Lamar County third healthiest in Mississippi


Lamar County is the third-healthiest county in the state, according to a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice on the Internet.

SmartAsset provides personalized tools to help users make personal finance decisions around homebuying, retirement, taxes and more. Lamar County’s rating came during a recent life insurance study that ranked the nation’s counties according to three factors: Length of Life, Health Behaviors and Healthcare Access.

Lamar County at 71.58 composite score ranked behind Madison County (74.35) and Rankin County (72.29). In fourth was DeSoto County (66.42) and Pontotoc County (66.12)

A.J. Smith, SmartAsset’s vice president of Financial Education, said health and life insurance are the key players associated with the study.

“The thing we try to do is all of these personal finance decisions impact each other,” she said. “Obviously, if you’re applying for a mortgage, you’re not paying attention to your credit score and you get a not great interest rate, that’s more money you’re paying in interest over the life of your loan and that’s less money you have to put toward retirement or a child’s education.

“The same is true for life insurance,” she added. “We hope a study like this gets people thinking and talking about their own factors, where they stand on health factors. Maybe they will take some action to improve some of those things so they can qualify for a lower rate. Then they will have more money to go toward more financial goals.”

The health factors included the years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 residents, which generated the Length of Life Index. Health Behaviors were measured by the percentage of adults that are current smokers, the percentage of adults that are obese and the percentage of adults that report binge or heavy drinking.

Healthcare Access Index was determined by the rate of primary care physicians per 100,000 residents and the percentage of population under age 65 without health insurance. The three indices found an overall healthiest places score based on the weighting of 50 percent for Length of Life, 30 percent for Health Behaviors and 20 for Healthcare Access.

Smith said people are sometimes not thinking about how to improve their rate or maybe shopping around.

“Honestly, (Lamar) County does better in every metric than the state average except heavy drinking,” she said. “When it comes to (the percentage of) smokers and obesity, when it comes to insurance rate, the county does better in all of those than the state average. Lamar County did improve over last year, when it was also No. 3. There were some improvements: the adult obesity decreased, the excessive drinking decreased and the uninsured rate decreased as well.”

Lamar County has one of the highest rates of medical professionals in the state with 146 for every 1,000 residents.

In a study released in March, Lamar County was named No. 4 in the healthiest counties in Mississippi, according to the ninth annual County Health Rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The new Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers of health such as children in poverty. Poverty limits opportunity and increases the chance of poor health. Children in poverty are less likely to have access to well-resourced and quality schools and have fewer chances to be prepared for living wage jobs.

The Mississippi State Report reveals that in Mississippi, 30 percent of children live in poverty, compared to the U.S. rate of 20 percent. Among racial and ethnic groups in Mississippi, rates of children in poverty range from 16 percent to 51 percent with American Indian/Alaskan Native children faring the worst and white children faring the best.

According to the 2018 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in Mississippi, starting with most healthy, are Rankin County, followed by DeSoto County, Madison County, Lamar County and Lafayette County.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health.

A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.