Allen County Health Officer Deborah McMahan, M.D., considers the County Health Rankings study a useful tool that provides good data to improve the health of the community.
The third annual report, released by University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, grades the overall health in more than 3,000 counties nationwide by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
This year, Allen County ranked 29 out of 92 counties in Indiana in health factors, up from 36 last year, and 35 in overall health outcomes.
“The report gives us an opportunity to show leadership in improving the health of our community,” noted Dr. McMahan. “It’s not so much the ranking that’s important, but the data that can help us move the needle. It helps us see the interplay between behaviors and health factors.”
Each year, Dr. McMahan compiles the data from the report and shares it with local hospitals, physicians and public officials. She credits the county’s improvement to community partnerships and initiatives.
Action improves scores
Unhappy with their county health rankings in 2010, leaders in Clinton County took action. Since then, the county improved its score each year.
|Top 10 healthiest Indiana counties
The result will be the creation of a culture of healthy living and the reduction of risk factors that lead to chronic disease.
To that end, the community has been encouraging physical activity by developing walking and biking trails, a “safe routes to schools” program, and improving streets and sidewalks through a complete streets ordinance. A $64,000 grant last year from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors helped the committee get started.
ISMA Past President and Clinton County Health officer Stephen D. Tharp, M.D. said “The point is that we need to pay attention to the aesthetics and make it enjoyable so people want to get out and walk. Improvement in health starts when you get local leaders to create ordinances with health factors in mind, which in turn builds an economic base.”
Whitely County Health Officer Lisa Hatcher, M.D., views the health rankings very guardedly. Compared to other counties in the state, her community ranked 15 in health outcomes and 17 in health factors.
“I think the data must be carefully interpreted,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to drill down into the detail behind each of the items. Some of them, in my opinion, don’t really lend themselves to stand-alone elements for determining the health of a community.”
Find out how your county scored on this website.