While Clark County received its best ranking in six years on a national health survey, local leaders say they must continue to push to improve public health until there’s a trend in the ranking.
The county ranked 67th among Ohio’s 88 counties in the annual County Health Rankings report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot comparing the health of nearly every county in the nation.
“It’s certainly a positive number for us, moving in the right direction,” Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. “I think it’s just like last year. We can’t pin a lot on that until we get a trend.”
However the county dropped on its health factors ranking, falling three spots to 61. A year ago, the county ranked 58th in Ohio for the measure that looks at behavior, clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors. In 2014, the county ranked 65th in health factors.
Champaign County ranked 35th for health outcomes, improving 11 spots from 2015. The county ranked 33rd for health factors this year, down two spots from a year ago.
“I was pleased to see that we were higher up in the health rankings,” Champaign County Health Commissioner Jeff Webb said. “I just didn’t expect it to come quite so quickly.”
Delaware County ranked as the healthiest in Ohio, while Pike County ranked as the least healthy county.
The biggest factors affecting Clark County’s health continue to be smoking, obesity and teen birth rates — all of which are higher than both the state and national averages. About 20 percent of adults in Clark County are smokers, which is higher than both the state (19 percent) and top performers in the United States (14 percent).
“We have way too many people who are smoking cigarettes in our county,” Patterson said. “It’s just too many. One is too many … That’s going to turn into the health outcomes that we don’t want to see.”
The Clark County Combined Health District will reveal its 2016 Community Health Improvement Plan at 8:30 a.m. March 29 at the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome. The plan, which began in January after the release of the 2015 Community Health Assessment, will serve as a road map for improving the community’s health over the next three years, Patterson said.
The seven task forces — including substance abuse, healthy births and sexuality, nutrition, physical activity, tobacco use, mental health and chronic disease — will present short-term goals for the future.
“We hope all of these can be completed and we can make this a trend,” Patterson said.
The health of the community is key to future economic development in Springfield and Clark County, he said.
“We’ve got to show that we have a healthy workforce here and that it’s a healthy place for folks to bring their companies,” Patterson said.
With hospitals in both Clark and Champaign counties, Community Mercy Health Partners was happy to see improvements in those areas, Market Leader and CEO Paul Hiltz said.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Hiltz said. “Lots of work to do, but we’re going in the right direction.”
The collaboration between the health district, service providers and social agencies is key to continued improvement, Hiltz said. They hope to build on the success of this year’s ranking, he said.
“We have to work together,” Hiltz said. “We don’t care who gets the credit, but we’re going to work together to make it happen.”
Two of those agencies — the National Trail Parks and Recreation District and the Clark County Parks District — have worked together in recent years to expand free cycling and walking programs for residents to increase physical activity, said NTPRD Deputy Director Brad Boyer.
The districts offer a free program at least four days per week, he said, and hold several different programs each Saturday. Some of those groups have 20 to 30 participants per week.
“It’s our responsibility to encourage that physical activity and utilization of all those spaces,” Boyer said. “We’ve got to program it to get people out doing stuff. We’re providing a public service by getting people healthy and active.”
German Twp. resident Marilyn Corbin was happy with the increased ranking, but wasn’t surprised the county was still in the bottom quarter of the state.
“Most people are sedentary,” she said. “There are a lot of smokers and people are heavy. They don’t know how to eat right.”
Corbin has been attending the park district’s free Trail Hikers program each week with her dog, Louie, a yellow lab. Corbin encouraged others to participate and meet other people in the community.
“It goes fast, it’s only an hour,” she said. “It’s at your own pace, so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with other people … It’s good exercise. You can’t beat it.”
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