MARYLAND – According to a newly released County Health Ranking and Roadmaps study, the Eastern Shore is falling strikingly behind in overall health.
Out of Maryland's 24 counties, Wicomico ranks 18th, Somerset at 20th, and Caroline at 23rd. Worcester County fared better, ranking 11th.
The report looks at a health outcomes, including length and quality of life, and a wide range of health factors, which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.
One health behavior where Wicomico, Somerset, and Caroline counties were at least six percent higher than the rest of the state, was obesity.
"It's a concern with all ages for obesity and the potential for diabetes," Lori Brewster, deputy health officer with the Wicomico County Health Department.
"A lot of our community members perhaps find foods that are not the most nutritious and that are high in calorie because they are less expensive," says Laura Patrick, deputy health officer for the Caroline County Health Department.
Wicomico County health officials say another alarming statistic is the number of sexually transmitted diseases. The county has 682 cases, which is 200 over the state average, and more than five times the national average.
"We're working on that at this point, we are collecting data to support some of the initiatives that we have," says Brewster. "We're still not quite there yet as far as developing strategies to focus on that issue."
Health officials say one main issue behind the numbers is money, or lack thereof.
"Funding would help, but mobilizing the community is a big factor," says Brewster. "Of course, if you have money you can mobilize the community to work towards efforts."
Despite what the numbers look like firsthand, health officials in all 3 counties say the study does show major improvements from last year, and they are currently making strides with what resources they have.
In Wicomico County, a Local Health Improvement Coalition is underway, which has several subcommittees to specifically focus on the key issues of obesity and diabetes in prevention. In Caroline County, they now have an urgent care center in Denton, which reportedly helps solves their transportation issue.
"It's a huge problem in Caroline County," says Patrick. "We have wanted it for so long and it has finally come to pass. It's local and if they do have something they will go there as opposed to travel. Before, we did not have anything local."
Now, health officials say they hope they can use the report to continue to grow.
"We need to capture the data and use that in conjunction with other data," says Brewster. "We're happy that we're on an upward tick."