MTSU center, Adams Chair team up for report on Rut...

MTSU center, Adams Chair team up for report on Rutherford County’s health

“Rutherford County Health Watch” logo superimposed over a file photo of a nurse checking a patient’s health with a blood pressure gauge.

A statistical snapshot of Rutherford County’s overall health, including its areas of strengths and its challenges, is now available from MTSU.

Click on the first page of the new “Rutherford County Health Watch” to read the full PDF document.

The MTSU Center for Health and Human Services and the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services have produced the January 2020 Rutherford County Health Watch, a brief summary of the county’s health status during a particular period.

The Health Watch includes the United Health Foundation’s recent report, which ranks Tennessee’s overall statewide health at 44th out of 50 states. Information from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute also is included in the Health Watch.

After analyzing data for 34 factors with negative or positive effects on health, those two groups ranked Rutherford County third out of 95 Tennessee counties in its residents’ health outcomes and second in residents’ length of life. A new rankings report is expected late March, and CHHS will post a link to those rankings when released along with an updated publication later in the year.

Areas noted in the report as strengths for health factors in Rutherford County include rates of teen births, uninsured people, mammography screenings and flu vaccinations as well as social and economic factors such as residents’ high school graduation levels and college attendance, county unemployment rates, the number of children in poverty, the county’s income inequality and deaths caused by injury.

The report points to adult smoking, adult obesity, excessive drinking, preventable hospital stays, social associations, violent crime and air pollution as areas for further exploration and improvement.

However, the Johnson Foundation and Population Health Institute report is a single resource, represents a specific period of time and is updated annually.  Cynthia Chafin, associate director for community programs at the CHHS, said the county has conducted a community health needs assessment and formulated a community health improvement plan, or CHIP, based on multiple data sources.

Center for Health and Human Services logoThe county created its CHIP through its partnerships with Saint Thomas Health, Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Rutherford County Health Department, the Rutherford County Wellness Council and other community organizations.

Priorities noted in the CHIP for the county include mental health and substance abuse, access to basic needs with a concentration on housing, enhanced resources and services, and nutrition and obesity.

The plan includes strategies to address the prioritized health needs of the county and is available at

Martha Jo Edwards, who recently retired as holder of the Adams Chair, created the Rutherford County Health Watch. She released the first report in 1998, and it has been published annually in most of the subsequent years. The report is published in late fall or early spring, depending on when pertinent new data is released.

Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services at MTSU logoEdwards published the inaugural edition for MTSU’s community health and nursing courses as well as the Rutherford County Wellness Council and its members. The report also was designed to support research, programs and projects focused on improving population health.

The CHHS will publish future editions of the Health Watch.

You can review the January 2020 report which includes the 2019 rankings via PDF at

Copies of the Rutherford County Health Watch are available via PDF at or

The Center for Health and Human Services focuses on improving the health and well-being of Tennesseans and works with the Adams Chair on academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.

For more information, contact Chafin at 615-898-5493 or or visit the center’s website at

— Gina Logue (