Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Unhealthy rural communities in the heartland were some of Trump's biggest supporters

Brown County (Wikipedia map)
"Trump Country," the rural areas where Donald Trump scored some of his most decisive victories, includes some of the nation's most unhealthy communities, Dylan Scott reports for Stat, the national health-and-science website of The Boston Globe.

In Brown County, Ohio, Trump beat Hillary Clinton 73.2 percent to 21.9 percent. In Scott County, Indiana, about 130 miles to the west, he won 67 to 29.2.

In Georgetown, located in Brown County, "residents die younger than all but a few other counties in this important swing state," Scott wrote in October. "The suicide rate is well above the national average. Brown County saw a 50 percent increase in drug overdose deaths over two years."

Scott County
(Wikipedia map)
Austin, in Scott County, was the site of an HIV and hepatitis C epidemic blamed largely on shared needles. The town is not far from the office of Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice president-elect.

While Trump easily won both counties, in October even his "staunchest supporters don’t see him as a savior, the cure to their ailments," Scott wrote. "Almost nobody—neither health workers, nor people recovering from addiction, nor regular voters—seems to believe the presidential election will have much consequence for their health." Austin resident Ron Snowden told Scott last month, “Way I look at it, no matter who you get in there, the damage has already been done. Whoever gets in there, it’s going to take 30 years to fix what’s been done.”

Scott wrote, "Brown and Scott are classic examples of Trump’s America, communities in the heartland that are strongly pro-Trump and staggeringly unhealthy. They are also two of the unhealthiest counties in their respective states, according to rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute."

"In these counties, as in other places that have seen stagnating life expectancy among white Americans, drug and alcohol have claimed countless lives, along with conventional killers like cancer and heart disease," Scott writes. "Some political analyses have argued that Trump’s unexpected rise can just as easily be traced to poor health as economic hardship or racial anxiety, as voters flock to a candidate promising to revive their dying towns."

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