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Clark County health rankings improve, but still low

Clark County is getting healthier, but it still ranks near the bottom of Ohio counties on a national health survey.

The county ranked 70th among Ohio’s 88 counties in the fifth annual County Health Rankings report released this week by the Robert Wood John Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Last year, Clark County ranked 72nd and has been as low as 74th, according to the foundation’s website.

The county ranks worse than both the national and state averages in premature death, adult obesity, physical inactivity and number of people without health insurance, according to the report.

Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said the numbers aren’t where the district wants them to be, but it’s moving in a positive direction.

“We’re always happy when the community is showing up better than we were before,” Patterson said.

The ranking is based on health outcomes, which measures both length and quality of life. The county also ranked 65th in health factors, which includes behavior, clinical care, physical environment and social and economic factors. Last year, the county ranked 70th.

The small increase in the county’s ranking is positive for the future, Patterson said. He cited personal choices about health and wellness and increased support from agencies working together to improve recreational and fitness opportunities throughout the county.

“We want to build on this and get better and better every year,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for us to be No. 1, but it’s not difficult to move to the upper 50 percent in Ohio. I think that’s a realistic goal for Clark County.”

Last year, the health district released its Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan. The district performed a phone survey in 2012 with more than 1,053 telephone surveys of Clark County adults, 76.8 percent of which said their health is excellent, very good or good. However, 23.2 percent said their health is fair or poor, which is higher than both the state (16.1 percent) and the national (14.7 percent) averages.

The survey also found 76.9 percent of residents are classified as overweight or obese based upon their body mass index.

After the assessment was completed, a broad-based community group identified five priority areas, including:

• Healthy births and sexuality.

• Obesity.

• Chronic disease management.

• Mental health.

• Substance abuse.

A focus on mental health is key because it will help improve the other four priority areas, Patterson said.

“If we have the right coping skills, it helps us to make better decisions along the way,” he said.

The improved ranking is a good sign for the future, said Bob Ketterman of Springfield as he was leaving Springfield Regional Medical Center this week. He believes health care is improving in the community and was satisfied with a recent stay at Springfield Regional Medical Center.

The hospital is partnering with other agencies, including the health district and the Rocking Horse Community Health Center, to increase access to care for chronic disease management and improve the health condition of the community, said Dave Lamb, a spokesman for Community Mercy Health Partners.

The increased access will cut down on emergency room visits and hospital stays, Lamb said.

“We’re not going to be satisfied with our rankings until we see a significant amount of improvement where the county is currently,” Lamb said. “We’ve got the right partners in place and we are optimistic.”

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