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Health rankings report helps you assess, improve county health
e-Reports, April 18, 2011
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Top 10 healthiest Indiana counties
  • Hamilton
  • Dubois
  • Boone
  • LaGrange
  • Hendricks
  • Warrick
  • DeKalb
  • Wells
  • Whitley
  • Marshall

How healthy are the people in your county? The second annual County Health Rankings study, released by University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, allows you to see how your county compares to others and to other states.

The report ranked counties in two different categories: health outcomes, which included mortality and morbidity, and health factors that encompassed health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Specifically, measurements considered the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, access to healthier foods, air-pollution levels, income, and rates of smoking, alcohol use, obesity and teen births.

“The County Health Rankings are an important tool for local health departments as they prepare for national public health accreditation,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “Health departments can use these data as part of the community health assessment and community health improvement plan, which are both required documents for public health accreditation.”

Starke County
Starke County Health Officer Theresa Alexander, M.D., noted that researchers used data from 2001 to 2009. The report ranked her small northern county 91st in both health outcomes and health factors.

“I think the report paints an inaccurate picture,” she said. “All data should come from the same year to make it an even playing field. So, our efforts this year will not be reflected for another two to three years.”

Dr. Alexander noted categories in the study over which she had no control, such as environmental pollution. She also agreed that her county needed to improve areas that could be controlled. For example, a nine-mile bike/walk trail was completed last year to promote exercise, and farmers markets and home gardens are encouraged in the summer. Additionally, the health department plans to promote diabetic screenings and host programs on smoking and obesity, especially in schools.

“There have been improvements, but we’re a poor county,” she explained. “We have high unemployment rates, so it becomes a cost factor when people look for healthy foods and to fund health programs.”

Randolph County
The report showed Randolph County improving its health outcomes by three points – ranking 53rd last year and 50th this year.

Randolph County Health Officer Jerome Leahey, M.D., gives credit to people in the community.

“People here just want to stay healthy. They are realizing that prevention is better than treatment,” he said. “The whole county has been active in health programs.”

Dr. Leahey noted that local initiatives included smoking cessation and diabetic education classes.

To see how your county ranked, go to the county health rankings website.

Health rankings report spurred Clinton County to action
The release of last year’s county health rankings spurred officials in Clinton County to take action. Forming a coalition, they applied for and received a grant of $64,000 to help solve the county’s health problems. Even though the grant money was awarded in February, the county has already improved its ranking from 51st to 47th.

ISMA Reports provided details of the grant in the March 7 issue.
Copyright: Information written and displayed on www.ismanet.org is the property of ISMA and may not be reproduced without expressed written permission of the Indiana State Medical Association.

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