Bedford County, Tennessee has a smaller population than Anderson County, but it is in many ways more privileged. The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has provoked controversy over the last few years, but it is a huge tourist attraction. In addition, historic towns such as Shelbyville, Wartrace, and Bell Buckle bring in a moderate tourist flow, especially for Civil War history buffs.
The county hosts a number of small to medium sized industries (based on number of employees), though, from a health standpoint, it is worrisome that Heritage Medical Center, its one hospital, is in danger financially. It has a public school system which takes into account the many Spanish-speaking residents, and its dress code is sufficiently relaxed that it does not tax the budget of its residents.
From a health care standpoint, according to 2012 USDA figures, 17.2% of the county population is living in poverty. The total population in the 2010 census was given as 45,058, and some 3,667 of these folks (8.14% population) are believed to be in the Coverage Gap caused by lack of Medicaid expansion.
The main point of this profile is to highlight the county’s health dilemma by using the Years of Potential Life Lost measurement developed recently. To explain this measurement, I will repeat the information given previously.
The average normal age of death used here is 75, and all the recorded deaths in each county during a year are considered. For instance, if a person dies at 25, he/she contributes 50 years to the YPLL rate. The latest YPLL rates are for the years 2008-2010. What we are measuring here is PREMATURE MORTALITY. Accidents and diseases happen to everybody, but, by comparing counties, we can get an idea of the county’s general health. For instance, the wealthiest and healthiest county in Tennessee is Williamson County, and their YPLL as of 2000 was 3,839 Years of Potential Life Lost.
Bedford County is much smaller than Williamson and has a much higher poverty rate. Heritage Medical Center, its financially troubled hospital, is listed as a major employer. The county’s YPLL rate as of 2000 is 8,756 potential years lost. This is more than double Williamson’s rate.
Since Bedford’s state senatorial race is still ongoing, residents should contact all the involved candidates with their concerns. After the election, your senator’s email, phone, and office address can be found at www.capitol.tn.gov.