FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A nationwide program has released new data showing that health outcomes for people in Cumberland County are dropping. That means both length and quality of life may be decreasing from previous years.
However, county officials and medical professionals say positive trends in health data show there are reasons to be optimistic.
The new data is coming out of the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program, a nationwide initiative from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. This year, Cumberland County went from being ranked 52 previously to 68 out of 100 counties in the state for health outcomes based on data from 2019 to 2021.
Health outcomes refer to how healthy people are in the county right now in terms of both length and quality of life.
One doctor from Cape Fear Valley Health pointed to what he thinks may be behind the big drop.
"The COVID really affected some of the data collection as well. So you know, I'm a little bit curious to know if this is just a one-year data setback in that we see all these other positive factors to show that we're moving forward, and we get back on track next year," said Dr. Sam Fleishman.
There may be a silver lining: The county's ranking for health factors, meaning lifestyle factors that people can change to enhance their health, improved by six points.
"Health factors are more like factors that we expect to lead to the health outcomes of tomorrow. So in some ways, you could see it as more important to have a better health factors score," said Nicholas Schmuhl, a research and analytics scientist for the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
Lee Mcphatter Jr. of Fayetteville lives with diabetes and congestive heart failure.
"The doctor told me maybe seven years ago at the most (to live with) my heart. This heart is beating like an 80-year-old man. It means I got a weak heart," he said. "I'm still living, though."
He credits clinics in the county for supporting vulnerable people like him. Still, he said, it's a struggle to get by.
"It's a lot going on," Mcphatter said. "It's crazy. But, you know, you got to do what you got to do to survive."