PARIS, Maine — Oxford Country remains the least healthy county in the state for the second year in a row, according to a nationwide, county by county health assessment report released late last week.
The figures show a high rate for motor vehicle accident deaths, violent crimes and adult smoking in Oxford County.
According to the report, which in part looks at socio-economic indicators, Oxford County has a high rate of unemployment which relates to no or limited health insurance and other factors that officials say could bring the county ranking down.
The countywide figures were released at a community health needs assessment forum of local area health, police and school officials and others at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Thursday. The county survey, done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, uses 27 indicators of health and is done once a year on a nationwide basis.
The county figures were also augmented with a new community health needs assessment done by One Maine Health Collaborative which showed that a high percentage of Oxford County adults from ages 18 to 64 are uninsured and that 23 percent of Oxford residents report their health to be fair to poor.
The new One Maine Health Collaborative survey looked at all 16 counties in Maine and used hundreds of measures to determine health risks, said local health officials from the Stephens Memorial Hospital, who sponsored the forum.
“We’ve never had a comprehensive survey done in this way,” said Deb Deatrick, vice president of community health at the Maine Health organization which co-sponsored the survey that was done during a two-month period in 2010. “This is the first time this has been done. It’s a very big step forward.”
Like the county survey, the One Maine Health Collaborative survey showed high health risk numbers for Oxford County residents. According to the new survey, a total of 24 percent of Oxford County residents are overweight as compared to 28 percent statewide; 25 percent are smokers compared to 22 percent statewide, and 15 percent of county residents have experienced interpersonal violence as compared to 12 percent statewide.
A total of 8 percent of Oxford County residents are chronic heavy drinkers compared to 6 percent statewide, according to the One Maine Health Collaborative survey.
Deatrick said that the One Maine Health Collaborative surveyed 6,400 Maine households, including 400 respondents in Oxford County alone.
The information on both surveys is now being reviewed by county officials who will come up with a plan to improve the numbers.
A second county forum will be held Nov. 16 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Crescent Park School in Bethel to review the numbers with officials and residents in that area of the county.
“These are very important sessions to have,” hospital President Tim Churchill. “These are critically important issues.”