Here’s how Georgians’ health stacks up — and it’s not all bad news

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 2:00 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgians’ high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease levels are all higher than the national average, putting them among the most alarming statistics in a new report from Augusta University researchers.

And in health insurance coverage, Georgia ranked 49th in the U.S.

The study – “Healthy Georgia: Our State of Public Health” from the AU Institute of Public and Preventive Health – found high cholesterol among Georgians is comparable to the national rate but lower than the region.

While the overall prevalence of high cholesterol in Georgia was 31%, it was 25% among Black Georgians, which is also lower than the Black population in the rest of the U.S.

High blood pressure and obesity are “significantly higher” among Georgia adults than the national average, but high blood pressure rates are lower than the regional average.

While the prevalence of high blood pressure in Georgia was 37%, it was 46% among Georgians living in rural areas.

The report also shows most rural areas struggle with a shortage of healthcare resources.

“You have a high level of uninsured. Even though the hospital may be right outside your door, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the funds to access the care that you could get in those hospitals or in those specialty clinics,” said Dr. Aaron Johnson, Augusta University.

High blood pressure has been trending downward in Georgia in recent years, according to the study.

Adult obesity is comparable to the regional average but above the national average. Obesity among Georgia children, though lower than the regional average, is significantly higher than the national average.

The study notes that obesity rates have been increasing all across the U.S. for more than three decades. The obesity trend continues to rise in Georgia, and the Peach State ranks in the top 50th percentile for obesity among all states.

People with income below the federally defined poverty line in Georgia had a significantly lower rate of obesity compared to people with income below the poverty line in the rest of the Southeast.

Overall, Georgians also have a higher rate of heart disease than the national average, but the prevalence among Black and Hispanic Georgians is below the national and regional averages, the study found.

The study found Georgians living below the federally defined poverty threshold have a higher rate than others.

While the overall prevalence of heart disease among Georgians was 9%, it was 16% among rural Georgians, which is also higher than that in the rural population in rest of the U.S.

While smoking in Georgia is below the regional average, it’s higher than the national average.

White Georgians smoke at a higher rate than white adults in the rest of the U.S., but Black Georgians smoke at a lower rate than their counterparts elsewhere the study found.

While the overall cigarette smoking prevalence in Georgia was 15%, it was 28% among Georgians with income below the federally defined poverty line.

Other findings

  • Other than asthma, noncommunicable diseases here are lower than in the rest of the region. The child asthma rate in Georgia is above the regional and national average.
  • White and elderly Georgians have a higher likelihood of being diabetic than people in other states, but Black and Hispanic Georgians’ rate is lower than the region and the country.
  • Georgians aren’t as heavy drinkers or as depressed as their counterparts in the region and across the country, the study found.
  • Flu shot rates are significantly lower in Georgia than both national and regional averages.

Augusta Locally Grown is holding a gardening class where people are learning to grow their own plants and vegetables. It’s just one of the ways people are trying to combat the issues in the report here locally.

Brandi Wallace is the education coordinator with Augusta Locally Grown. She said: “How do you know what’s getting in your system if you don’t know what you’re putting in your system? How can you trust other folks?”

Johnson says they hope the report will help open the eyes of leaders across the state.

“I think they will be more open now than perhaps any time in the last decade to expanding the resources that go into improving the overall health of the state,” he said.