AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) Dr. Biblab Datta joins us to talk about the Healthy Georgia Report. Researchers at Augusta University’s Institute of Public and Preventive Health compile the annual assessment. Dr. Datta discusses how Georgia compares to other parts of the country in several health categories. Please watch this interview, then join us for The Means Report. We are on Monday afternoons at 12:30 on WJBF NewsChannel 6.

Continuing our health theme now, we wanna update you on an annual report that AU does. It is the Healthy Georgia Report, just being released in January of this year, and it really is an assessment of all things health in the great state of Georgia, from smoking to cancer, to vaccinations, to diabetes, you name it. And Dr. Biplab Datta spearheads this report, and he’s kind enough to join us now. Dr. Datta, thanks for your work and thanks for your time today.

Thank you for having me.

So just a general question, first of all, as it relates to the Healthy Georgia Report, are we as a whole healthier than we’ve been in recent years? Or do you, after this report, still see a lot of room for improvement?

There is, of course, room for improvement and this is the second time we are doing this. So, comparison-wise, we cannot say whether we are much healthier or less healthier, so that’s difficult. But what we can say is, if we compare Georgia with rest of US, in many health topics, we are not doing great in terms of national level. But if we compare Georgia with rest of the state in southeastern region, we are doing better.

Right, we’re doing better than them. What’s the worst thing right now? If I had to guess, I’d say, we don’t have a handle on obesity yet. Is that right?

Obesity is actually the area where we are doing relatively better.

All right.

Yeah. So, our obesity prevalence is kind of comparable to the national average and also comparable to the regional average. But what we are not doing good is rest of other cardiometabolic risk factors like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes. And also, another risk factor, smoking. These are the areas we are doing not that well.

Those issues that you’ve mentioned, is it because we don’t eat well?

That’s, of course, like southern diet, maybe one of the things. But there are many other issues, like maybe sodium intake. We are consuming more salt. Physical exercise could be an issue, but surprisingly, we are not doing bad in terms of that, we are on the same as the south of the nation. But no, I think awareness about certain disease conditions of the issues, and that’s one of the main goal of this report to make people aware of the situation, to stimulate conversation with our health service providers, with researchers and policy makers so that together we can make things better.

Well, is it your hope that after you have those conversations with those people, that they will get involved, they’ll provide the funding necessary for more research and treatment?

Yes, we hope so. That’s one of the major goal of this report. I don’t know whether we can accomplish that, but that’s obviously the direction we want to head. And also, there are certain issues that we need to understand more nuancedly. So overall, we are seeing a rate, like obesity prevalence, maybe we have a certain rate. But what happened to obesity prevalence in certain groups, in certain income levels, in certain educational levels, in rural, urban, in certain age groups? So these are the critical things that we need to understand more nuancedly to make right policies and make things better for us.

I was gonna ask you about income levels. Does a person’s economic status, based on the Healthy Georgia Report, impact their health?

Yes, to some extent. One particular health behavior, smoking. We find a huge disparity between smoking among people who are living below federal poverty line and above federal poverty line. I think there is double digit point differences in smoking prevalence in those two groups in Georgia. So that’s, obviously, something we have to look forward.

We seem to have a relatively lower rate of cancer compared to other states. Why do you think this is? Why are we doing better in that department?

So, there are two sides of it. One is maybe we have a lower rate of diagnoses, so that’s bad.


If that is not true, then the other thing, like I said, we were doing better in terms of rest of the southeast regional states. And I think one of the bigger reason for that is we have Atlanta and lots of people are living in Atlanta. And I think the lifestyle, the behaviors and other stuff of these large group of people living in Atlanta is something different than rest of the states. And I think positively thinking, their lifestyle, their eating behavior, something that will be the cause that we are seeing a lower cancer prevalence. But again, I’ll be skeptical because I don’t know whether it’s because of the low diagnosis or because of we are performing better in other health sectors.

Dr. Datta, what did you find this year, you and your team, when it comes to the healthcare needs of our children? Were there any findings in that regard? Anything that jumped out at you?

Yes, so, two things in particular. One, we are not doing so well in terms of breastfeeding. So that’s something we need to work a lot. We need to improve the overall breastfeeding prevalence in the state. And other aspect is, we ask us a thing, whether the children had unmet need for healthcare.


Like in the past 12 months, whether they were supposed to see a doctor but they couldn’t see the doctor and get the necessary healthcare. We are really doing bad in that aspect. I think we are number three in the country in terms of number of children not receiving adequate healthcare.

Why not? Are the doctors too far away from them? They don’t have transportation?

There could be lots of different issues. Utilization could be one issue, access could be another issue. So, we have to research more on this topic to figure out what exactly is happening there and why our children are not getting the adequate care.

Did you see anything when it comes to child abuse? Did anything about that come out? I remember during the height of the pandemic, many abuse cases were not reported because everybody was at home sheltering.


Anything like that in this report?

So in general, our ranking in terms of child maltreatment based on the number of adverse childhood experience exposure, we are doing good. We are not at the very high end of the states. So, Georgia is doing good. But again, that question, like unreporting stuff, maybe not reporting, that could happen here, and we have to delve more into it. But in general, we are doing good.

Probably my last question while I have you here, can you offer any advice when it comes to the vaccine? Should we still be concentrating on getting annual booster shots? What do you recommend, if anything, in that regard?

So, the problem for Georgians is, we have a very low flu vaccination rate and also very low COVID vaccination rate.


So that means we have a hesitancy. And I don’t think there is a problem in terms of access. We have the vaccines waiting for us.

Sure do.

In the healthcare facilities. We just have to motivate people to go there to have vaccinated. And I think community level engagement, talking with our peers in the community, that will certainly help improving the situation on the vaccination rates in Georgia.

All right, Dr. Biplab Datta, a lot to cover in a short time. I really appreciate your work on the Healthy Georgia Report and I appreciate your time today.

Yeah, thank you for having me.