The 2013 County Health Rankings were released this week and Delaware County saw a small improvement in their ranking from 87th to 82nd out of 92 counties. While some might want to acknowledge our improvement, we’re still in the bottom quartile.
If Indiana was a healthy state, than we might be able to congratulate ourselves, but Indiana doesn’t rank well when compared to the rest of country.
The purpose of the County Health Rankings is to help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live. The Rankings look at a variety of measures that affect health such as the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, unemployment, limited access to healthy foods, air and water quality, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.
The Rankings are unique in their ability to measure the overall health of each county in all 50 states on the many factors that influence health, and they have been used to garner support among government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policymakers, and the public for local health improvement initiatives.
In this years Rankings, there were three areas which really stood out for Delaware County:
- Adult smoking
- Adult obesity
- Percentage of children living in single parent households.
The national benchmark for percentage of adults who identify themselves as smokers is 13%, while Indiana has 24% of population who are smokers. Delaware County exceeded both with 26% of adults claiming to be regular smokers. Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable diseases.
The national benchmark for percentage of obese adults is 25%. Indiana has an adult obesity percentage of 31%, and Delaware County is even higher at 33%, or one in three adults are considered obese. Obesity has become the number one public health crisis because it causes many preventable diseases in our country. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart attack, strokes, along with knee and hip replacements contribute to higher health care costs in this country.
According to the Rankings, the national benchmark for the percentage of children living in single parent households is 20%. Across the state we experience a much higher percentage at 32%. However, in Delaware County, we have 39% of our kids living in a single parent household. According to the Rankings, “Adults and children in single-parent households are at risk for adverse health outcomes such as mental health problems (including substance abuse, depression, and suicide) and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and excessive alcohol use.”
Other health factors in Delaware County which exceed the state and federal benchmarks which require attention are:
- Preventable or premature deaths
- Number of poor physical and mental health days
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive drinking
- High number of sexually transmitted diseases
- Children in poverty
- Violent crime rates
- High unemployment
- High percentage of fast food restaurants to total eating establishments.
In summary, in the one area where we have 100% control and can best demonstrate our personal responsibility for ourselves (health and wellness), we continue to make poor choices.
These consistently poor health decisions are leading to a higher number of preventable diseases and premature death. The preventable diseases lead to expensive medications and treatments. Hospitalizations are high due in these areas and so are the need for medical devices which has the highest markups and payouts in the industry.
Th consequences of these poor results is our poor health choices contribute to higher health care costs. It’s a free country, so we are free to choose what foods we eat and how we spend our time, but our choices also impact others in the community.
Our national leaders in public office quietly murmur about the public health crisis, but we can barely hear the whispers in our state or county. No politician wants to tell their constituents they eat the wrong foods, smoke too much, drink too much alcohol, have too much unprotected sex, and are flat out lazy. It might cost votes, so they remain quiet.
Meanwhile our health care costs grow to 20% of national GDP, and legislation is written to support processed food makers and unhealthy food production.
Even though corporate wellness programs provide a 300% return on investment, our private sector leaders have been slow to adopt wellness programs for their employees.
What’s it going to take for our leaders in both the public and private sector to address our growing public health crisis in this country?
We’ll explore the consequences of our poor health choices with future articles in the Muncie Voice.
If you’d like to read Indiana’s summary report, you can visit http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/sites/default/files/states/CHR2013_IN.pdf