We’ve taken a look at the healthiest cities in the Natural State, so now it’s time to take a look at the other side of the coin. Information taken from County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that measures the health of the nation’s counties, uses statistics gathered from a variety of national and state data. These sources show us which locations in Arkansas rank at the top and at the bottom of overall quality of life.
Based on statistics gathered by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in 2014, residents of Arkansas County had a reported 29% of its population claiming to be in poor or fair health compared to the state average of 19%. 55% of the county's population claimed to have adequate access to exercise compared to Arkansas's overall average of 66%.
An Arkansas Delta gem, Clarendon is another great example of local culture preserved in a small town, agricultural-based setting. Despite the town's positive atmosphere, 28% of Monroe County's population reported being in poor or fair health in 2014. 55% of the county's youth were raised in single parent homes and 42% of Monroe County's children were listed as living in poverty last year.
13. Mountain View
Mountain View has a rich history of Arkansas culture and remains popular with tourists as the Folk Music Capitol of the World, hosting the Ozark Folk Festival annually. However, residents of Stone County have a few health concerns to consider - the reported percentage of children living in poverty is 41%, well above the state average of 28%. 23% of the population of Stone County is reportedly uninsured as well, compared to the Arkansas overall average of 19%.
Wynne residents are doing comparatively well when looking at the health statistics of other major east Arkansas locations, yet the population of Cross County is way over the state's average when it comes to cigarette smoking. 34% of the county's population are listed as smokers in comparison to the state average of 22%. Likely related to the statistic, Cross County has a 11.2% of children with low birth weight compared to the state average of 9%.
Camden has a great history as a bustling Arkansas railroad town and is notable for producing quality ball players, but currently only 44% of Ouachita County's residents report that they have proper access to exercise opportunities and 36% of residents claim to be physically inactive. 46% of the county's youth are raised in a single parent household, and 44% of Ouachita County's children reportedly live in poverty.
Smoking and inactivity are big factors in the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps assessment of Prescott's citizens. Nevada County has a reported 35% of the population listed as smokers compared to the Arkansas average of 22%. Only 38% of the county's residents have adequate access to physical activity compared to the state average of 66%.
9. Ash Flat
The citizens of Ash Flat are thankfully in less danger of violent crime than other towns in the Natural State, but the quality of life could be better in Sharp County. 34% of the county's residents report as being in poor or fair health compared to the state average of 19%. The adult obesity percentage, however, is lower than the state's average (Sharp County residents report 30% of their residents as obese; the Arkansas average reported 33% of overall adult residents as obese.) Smoking, however, may be the cause for the health issue. 31% of the Sharp County population are reported smokers compared to the state average of 22%.
The Crittenden Regional Hospital closed in 2014, making healthcare a hot button issue for residents of Marion and all the other residents of Crittenden County. A recent vote approved a 1% sales tax increase to help reopen the hospital. Residents who are employed reported an average of 5 work days missed due to poor health last year, and 84% of residents currently undergo diabetic monitoring. Crittenden County's adult obesity rate is at 38%, and 34% of the population reports as being physically inactive.
Unemployment is lower in Harrisburg (reported at 8.3% in 2014) than in other east Arkansas towns, but the town's don't seem to be faring much better than neighboring locations as 38% of the Poinsett County population's youth are reported as living in poverty. 45% of the county's children live in single parent households and 15% of Pointsett County's residents encountered severe housing issues in 2014.
Marianna is in a location with a wealth of Delta culture but lacking in other areas. 30% of Lee County residents claimed to be in poor or fair health as reported by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in 2014. 35% of the population is listed as obese.
It seems east Arkansas just can't catch a break when it comes to quality of life standards compared to the rest of the state. Some Augusta residents might take pause when considering a glass of tap water - 20% of Woodruff County reported drinking water violations in 2014. 27% of the county's population reports being in poor or fair health.
Blytheville has an advantage when it comes to educational opportunity thanks to Arkansas Northeastern College's proximity to local residents, but employment in this area is struggling. The steel pipe company Tenaris laid off nearly 300 employees in early 2015 and Mississippi County last reported an unemployment rate of 11% in 2014 according to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. 39% of the county's children are reported living in poverty.
3. Arkansas City
The interesting historic commercial district in Arkansas City is a reminder of the town's thriving business history in past days, but currently the town as well as the rest of Desha County has a troubling 48% of its children reported as living in poverty. 52% of the county's children are listed as living in a single parent household, and 20% of the county's population is uninsured.
2. Helena/West Helena
We're proud of Helena's strong contribution to American music history. Arkansas can brag about King Biscuit Time, the longest-running radio show in the U.S., originating from Helena, but the town could do better when it comes to physical fitness. All of Phillips County reports 40% of residents as being obese. 45% of the driving deaths occurring in Phillips County in 2014 were alcohol-related.
Lewisville is a town with a lot of history - Burges BBQ & Ice Cream has been a popular spot with locals since the 1960s. The town, however, also has a high amount of unemployment. Lafayette County has a 10.4% unemployment rate as of 2014 compared to the state's overall unemployment average of 7.5%. 40% of the county's children are in poverty according to the information taken from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.
If you feel that east Arkansas is being picked on, you’re not completely wrong. The eastern part of the state and our cherished Arkansas Delta has been largely based on agriculture as opposed to the business-booming, tourist-heavy western half of Arkansas, and as a result it’s pretty easy to see on a map where the financially well-off locations are in Arkansas. The health statistics of these towns are closely connected to how wealthy the county happens to be.