Report ranks Belknap 6th healthiest of N.H.'s counties

CONCORD — Belknap County was ranked as the sixth healthiest among the 10 counties in the state by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which for the past five years has measured the health of all the counties in the 50 states.

The "County Health Rankings" apply two broad sets of criteria: health outcomes, which measure the length and quality of life, and health factors, or the individual behaviors, social, economic and environmental conditions conditions, and clinical resources that affect health. The different elements are weighted to determine the final rankings.

Belknap County ranks sixth in health outcomes, seventh in health factors and sixth overall. The county tracks the state average by most but not all measures.

The rate of premature death, defined as years of life lost before age 75, in the county, is 6,086 per 100,000 people, which is 15-percent above the average of 5,267 per 100,000 people for the entire state. The number of individuals surveyed reporting they were in poor or fair health was 12 percent in the county compared to 11 percent in the state, Likewise, 3.6-percent of those surveyed reported mental health issues, slightly more than the 3.3 percent for the state as a whole. However, low birth rate deliveries represented 6.3-percent of births in the county, but 6.8 percent in the state.

The incidence of smoking and obesity among adults in the county, 18-percent and 27-percent respectively, matches the state averages. But, intoxicated or impaired drivers are involved in 41 percent of all fatal accidents in the county compared to 32 percent in the state. The rate of violent crime in the county, 200 per 100,000 people, also exceeds the state figure of 172 per 100,000 people. The teen birth rate in the county — 24 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, is seven points above the state average.

While 14-percent of the children in the state live in poverty, in Belknap County the portion is one-fifth, and a third of all children live in single-parent households compared to 27-percent throughout the state.

The report ranks Rockingham, Grafton, Hillsborough Merrimack and Cheshire as the five healthiest counties, and Carroll, Strafford, Sullivan and Coos as the four least healthiest.