Carroll slips three slots in county health rankings

By Carol McIntire

Carrollton – Carroll County slipped three spots in the County Health Rankings, released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The county fell from 42nd to 45th among the 88 counties in Ohio. The rankings, released each year for the last eight years, measure the overall health of communities across the United States, based on several areas, including length of life, quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, school and economic factors and physical environment.

Carroll County ranked as high as 28th in health behaviors, which includes information on smoking, adult obesity, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted diseases and teen births, and as low as 73rd in clinical care, which includes information on uninsured residents, access to primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers, preventable hospital stays, diabetes monitoring and mammography screenings.

The study indicated about 11 percent of county residents are uninsured. The ratio of residents to doctors is 4,700 to one, ratio of residents to dentists is 2,780 to one and ratio to mental health providers is 3,090 to one.

On the state level, the ratio of residents to doctors is 1,300 to one, ratio of residents to dentists is 1,690 to one and mental health providers is 630 to one.

The county ranked in the range of 43rd to 47th in the other categories.

Tuscarawas County was the highest ranking county of the counties adjacent to Carroll County at 36th. Stark County ranked 45th, Columbiana, 55th and Harrison, 67th.

One of the key findings of the report is more Americans are dying prematurely, notably among the younger generations.

The key findings in the report noted premature death rates rose across urban and rural communities and among racial/ethnic groups in 2015.

The report noted:

*Premature death has consistently been highest in rural counties and among American Indian/Alaskan Native and black populations.

*In recent years, premature death increased most among those ages 15–44.

*The rise in premature death was heavily influenced by drug overdose and other injury deaths.

*Drug overdose was by far the single leading cause of premature death by injury in 2015 and contributed to the accelerated rise in premature death from 2014 to 2015.

*Large suburban metro counties went from having the lowest to the highest rate of premature death due to drug overdose within the past decade.

*For those ages 15–24, an increase in drug overdose deaths was part of the equation, but more deaths due to motor vehicle crashes and firearm fatalities also played a role in the accelerated rise in premature death.

Along with providing information on the health of communities, the program helps identify and implement solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

Susie Frew, health educator for the Carroll County General Health District (health dept.), said Carroll County is working to improve the health of residents.

“The Health Dept. facilitated a Carroll County Health Improvement Summit Oct. 26, 2016, to provide data from assessments conducted in the county to a cross section of people,” Frew explained.

During the meeting, she said the group identified the top concerns for the county, one of which was access to primary care physicians.

“From the meeting, the Community Health Improvement Task Force was formed with the goal of developing a Community Health Improvement Plan that can be used by a variety of community partners with the goal of improving the community,” she noted. The task force met last week to begin discussions on those concerns.

Topics of discussion at the meeting last week included access to care, teen pregnancy, residents using stat care physicians as primary care physicians because of the lack of doctors in the area and how to encourage both doctors and dentists to set up practices in the county; and how transportation can be a barrier to health care.

“How can residents get to doctors, dentists, etc. if they don’t have transportation?” Frew asked.

The task force meetings are open to any community resident who would like to be involved. Anyone interested in participating is asked to call the county health dept. at 330-627-4866 and speak with Amy Campbell.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation collaborates with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to bring the County Risk Assessment program to communities across the nation.