The annual County Health Rankings, published online by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and Community Catalyst, show Bedford County as 27th out of 95 Tennessee counties when it comes to health outcomes.
The county is 41st among 95 counties in mortality rate (deaths prior to age 75), although it's actually worse than the state average. Bedford County, for the study period, had a morbidity rate of 9,457 per 100,000, while the state rate is 9,093 per 100,000.
But the county ranks 20th in terms of morbidity (illness), and beats the state average in terms of low birthweight babies and poor mental health days.
Yet, the county is 61st in the state in the health factors which are presumed to contribute to good health outcomes. The county is 67th in the state in health behaviors, 70th in the state in clinical care, 62nd in social and economic factors.
The county does have a positive ranking of 18th in the state in physical environment, another health factor. Physical environment includes factors like pollution, access to healthy foods, and number of fast food restaurants.
Among the specific health factors where the county is much worse than the state include the number of primary care physicians for each resident. The national benchmark cited by the study is one primary care physician for every 631 residents. Tennessee's average is 837:1, while Bedford County has 1,891 to 1.
Bedford County had more days of preventable hospital stays, more uninsured residents, more children in poverty and more unemployment than the state average.
One surprise in the study is the listing of Bedford County having a 79 percent graduation rate. That figure itself is not surprising -- similar figures have been reported in other studies, leading to a number of local discussions about how to improve the rate.
State and federal education reforms set targets for local school systems concerning graduation rate. But in those other studies, Bedford County's rate was reported as being much worse than the state average. The County Health Rankings study lists exactly the same graduation rate for Tennessee as a whole and for Bedford County by itself -- 79 percent.
According to the state's education report card, as pointed out by local school officials, the graduation rate for the state in 2009 was 83.3 percent, 2010 was 86.1 percent, and 2011 was 85.5 percent. It wasn't immediately clear why the County Health Rankings figure was different.
"I am not sure how they got all of the other data," said county School Superintendent Ray Butrum, "but I bet we are in line with the state."
Graduation rates for the County Health Rankings were calculated from the National Center for Education Statistics averaged freshman graduation rate using an estimated cohort.
For some states, the 2012 rankings were compiled using state Department of Education websites, which supposedly better account for transfers, early and late completers. But for 12 states including Tennessee, the rankings had to continue to use the NCES statistics as in the past.