03/31/11 The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the second annual report Wednesday ranking the health of Indiana counties. The County Health Rankings rank overall health for every county in all 50 states – more than 3,000 total – by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
“The success of a community is often related to both the economic and the overall health of the population,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. “What is known is that community health improvement primarily occurs when all leaders work together to foster the improved health status of all the citizens. When a community pulls together business leaders, health care systems, schools, non-profit organizations and local media outlets for the purpose of creating a more healthy and successful environment, all residents benefit.”
Dr. Larkin says there have been statewide initiatives in Indiana that have taken this kind of system-wide approach to address public health issues. One is INShape Indiana, which Governor Daniels launched in 2005 to challenge all Hoosiers to eat better, move more, and avoid tobacco. Another is the Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative which utilizes partnerships statewide to enhance the health and quality of life of Hoosiers by promoting good nutrition, regular physical activity, and a healthy weight through policy, environment, and lifestyle change.
Looking at the map of Indiana you will find that Marshall County is in the Top 10 counties ranked 10th. Other counties in the Top 10 include Hamilton County at #1, Dubois County is #2, followed by Boone County at #3, and LaGrange at 4. Hendricks County has a health ranking of 5th, while Warrick is 6th and DeKalb is 7th. The remaining counties in the Top 10 are Wells at 8th, Whitley at 9th and Marshall rounding out the Top 10.
The Counties surrounding Marshall have a wide variety with Elkhart being 19th in the state followed by Kosciusko at 20th. From there we find St. Joseph at 43rd, Fulton ranked 54th and Starke County at the bottom of the rankings with 91 out of 92 counties.
Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Indiana by county: the rate of people dying before age 75, the percent of people who report being in fair or poor health, the number of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birth weight infants.
The report then looks at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Among the many health factors, they looked at adult smoking, access to care, unemployment rate, adult obesity, teen birth rate, access to healthy foods, and motor vehicle death rate. The County Health Rankings report can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
“The County Health Rankings help everyone see that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office and where we live matters to our health,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The good news is that there are things counties can do right away to help their residents lead healthier lives. We hope this second annual release of County Health Rankings data will spur all sectors – government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health – to work together to find solutions and take action and implement programs and policy changes to improve health.”
“These are not just issues for local health departments and the medical community. We know that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office, like our levels of education and income, our access to healthier, more nutritious foods, and our access to smoke-free air to breathe,” said Dr. Larkin. “What the health outcomes and health factors measured in this report show us is the only way to make a real impact in the public’s health is to engage the entire system.”
For more information about INShape Indiana, please visit www.inshapeindiana.org.
For more information about the Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative, please visit www.inhealthyweight.org.