Winnebago County’s 2014 health rankings mark slight improvement

March 27, 2014
Health-USE

Online Staff Report

The national County Health Rankings report by the Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), released Wednesday, March 26, show where we live matters to our health.

Good medical care is important, but other significant influences on our health include a range of factors like health behaviors, social and economic influences, and the physical environment. The rankings help everyone see how where we live, learn, work and play matters to our health.

According to the annual County Health Rankings, Winnebago County’s overall health rankings in Illinois have improved with health outcomes, moving from a ranking of 82 out of 102 counties to 79. Health risk factors also improved slightly from 101 to 97.

This is the fifth 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 using a standard method to measure health outcomes and contributing risk 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 employment indicators.

With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve our weakest factors and build on our strongest factors, all of which will contribute to improving the health of our residents,” said Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon.

Because much of what affects our health happens beyond medical care, the rankings underscore how important it is to build a culture of health where getting healthy, staying healthy, and making sure our children grow up healthy are top priorities,” Bacon added. “It’s about bringing members of the community together to take action to prevent disease and improve health.”

In August 2012, the Illinois Department of Public Health awarded the We Choose Health multi-year Community Transformation Grant to 21 agencies statewide, which included Winnebago County Health Department’s (WCHD) proposal being one of the top five funded awards.

The WCHD initiative includes nine funded partners whose goal is to implement chronic disease prevention by working together using a multi-faceted approach to improve the health of our community,” Bacon said. “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 and dentists to population, preventable hospital stays and diabetic screening. Where we do not compare well is in the area of health behaviors, such as smoking, obesity, sexually transmitted infections, violent crime rate, teen birth rate, drinking water safety and limited access to exercise opportunities. 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.

While it is important to get updated information each year, it is difficult to measure changes from one year to the next,” Bacon said. “What is important, however, is that action is being initiated to improve health. To that end, the Winnebago County Health Department, the Rockford Health Council and other local stakeholders have intervention strategies to address contributing factors from access to care to basic needs, to chronic disease, oral health, health equity, maternal and child health, and violence and public safety. These rankings serve to highlight many of the same health and social and economic discrepancies that the Healthy Community Study in 2010 identified.”

The WCHD 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 sexual transmitted infections in pregnant women. This effort requires close coordination and partnering with health care and other community-based organizations.

Visit www.countyhealthrankings.org and www.wchd.org for more details.

Posted March 27, 2014

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