Study: Roosevelt County among healthiest in state

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Roosevelt and Curry counties are ranked among the 10 healthiest in the state.

The University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the results of their nationwide study of counties’ health Wednesday.

The study included factors such as individual behavior, quality of and access to health care, education, jobs and environment, according to a news release from the two organizations.

Roosevelt and Curry counties ranked eighth and 10th respectively, with Los Alamos County coming in as No. 1.

According to the release, More in Rio Arriba were last in overall health rankings out of 32 counties.

Harding County wasn’t ranked, according to the release.

Local hospital administrators point to health care, education and community values as reasons they believe Roosevelt and Curry counties rank in the top 10.

“For one thing, I know that this community, Roosevelt County and Portales, is an exceptionally caring community,” said Roosevelt General Hospital Administrator Larry Leaming.

Residents look out for each other, which lends to the health of the community, he said.

Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Hoyt Skabelund pointed to a conservative culture and traditional values in both communities as benefits for local health.

For example, he said, people tend to drink in moderation more often.

“Our communities are very focused on education,” Skabelund continued.

People with more education are better able to understand health, he said.

Skabelund also said good academic education or vocational training help with higher employment rates and getting jobs with better health insurance.

In addition, although they see health care deficits they want to overcome, Leaming and Skabelund said the communities provide a variety of good health care services.

Leaming said when he came to Portales, he was surprised at the quality and availability of a breadth of services.

Because the need to travel puts up barriers to health care, more local services make it more accessible, he said.

Skabelund also said the small amount of man-made air pollution, as opposed to what cattle produce, helps the health of the counties as well.