Winnebago County’s overall health rankings remained about the same as last year with health outcomes in the third quartile of Illinois counties (73 out of 102 counties), according to the annual County Health Rankings, released April 3 by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This is the third consecutive year of County Health Rankings, representing the most comprehensive review of its kind by ranking the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using a standard method to measure health outcomes and contributing factors.
This release ranks each county within its state on how healthy people are, how long they live and a number of contributing factors that affect health, such as smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to health care, education levels, air quality and income indicators.
Mike Bacon, Winnebago County Health Department public health director, said: “These rankings continue to support the work going on in Winnebago County over the past two years of assessing community health needs (i.e., Healthy Community Study, Rockford Health Council), where public health, health care, education, nonprofit entities and businesses are working together to implement actions to improve the health of our community. This annual release of county rankings is a tool to remind us that where we live, learn, work and play greatly influences how long and how well we live. It is important to note, however, in all communities health falls short of what it could be.”
Where Winnebago County compares well to other counties in Illinois is in clinical care, like the ratio of primary care providers to population, preventable hospital stays and diabetic screening.
The county also performs well in the environmental area of low number of poor air quality days.
Where the county does not compare well is in the area of health behaviors such as smoking, obesity, physical activity, sexually-transmitted infections and teen birth rate.
Socio-economic factors, such as high school graduation rates, unemployment, children in poverty, and children in single-parent households are also below the statewide mean.
“Winnebago County’s lack of movement reflects the fact that most counties remain in the same quartile that they were in 2011,” Bacon said. “While it is important to get updated information each year, it is difficult to measure change from one year to the next. What is important, however, is that action is being initiated to improve health. To that end, local stakeholders are working together through the Healthy Community Study of the Rockford Health Council to form nine workgroups.
“Each of these workgroups have developed intervention strategies to address contributing factors to a specific range of health problems from access to care to basic needs, to chronic disease, oral health, health equity, maternal and child health and violence and public safety,” Bacon added. “The Rankings have served to highlight many of the same health and social and economic discrepancies that the Healthy Community Study has underlined.”
The rankings, available at www.countyhealth-rankings.org, includes a snapshot of each county in Illinois, with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking.
Researchers used 27 indicators in five categories to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” for Illinois 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 Winnebago County Health Department has prioritized improving maternal and child health in its latest Community Health Improvement Plan, “Creating Conditions in Which People Can Be Healthy … Together We Can,” March 2012. These interventions target improving birth outcomes and reducing smoking and sexually transmitted infections in pregnant women. This effort requires close coordination and partnering with health care and other community-based organizations.
From the April 11-17, 2012, issue