Rankings highlight our unhealthy habits, but Healthy York County aims high
An annual report suggests that York County's habits are weighing down its health, and a local group is aiming for improvement.
The County Health Rankings, released last month, ranked York 19th out of 67 Pennsylvania counties in overall health outcomes and 17th in overall health factors.
Health outcomes are measured by length and quality of life, and health factors include clinical care, health behaviors, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Last year, the county ranked 18th in outcomes and 17th in factors.
The rankings remained steady in many areas, but the Healthy York County Coalition — which uses the report to guide its focus — is aiming for a higher spot in the next 10 years, said spokesman Kevin Alvarnaz.
"By 2025, we want to be in the top 10. So how do we make the changes necessary to make sure that's happening?" he said.
Habits affect health: The report ranked York County No. 32 in health behaviors, such as weight: 31.6 percent of the county's adults are obese, compared to 29 percent in 2010.
The exponential rise of adult obesity — both locally and nationally — is a "very challenging subject" and can't be changed overnight, said Alvarnaz, who is also the director of community health improvement for WellSpan Health.
"We're not going to be able to turn it downward," he said. "We're hoping that we can just level it off before turning it the other way."
So the coalition is focusing on modifiable behaviors, such as healthy eating and physical activity, Alvarnaz said. Other priorities include curbing tobacco use, addressing depression and improving access to health care, he said.
"We are making some strides that are going to become evident in the next year or two," Alvarnaz said.
Cleaner air: Every three years, the coalition's York and Adams County Community Health Needs Assessment looks at health trends and determines which areas need the most attention, he said.
The county consistently performs well with some issues, such as clinical care — which takes into account provider-to-patient ratios, the rate of uninsured patients and other factors — and earned a No. 9 ranking this year.
But York ranked 36th for its physical environment, so the coalition wants to create tobacco-free parks and playgrounds and ensure that people can breathe cleaner air, Alvarnaz said.
Eat Play Breathe York has effected clean-air changes in York City, but the coalition wants to work with municipalities throughout the county to implement similar policies on a larger scale, he said.
"I think we're continuing to do great work and engaging different parts of the community in that work," Alvarnaz said.
The next set of findings from the Community Health Needs Assessment will be published in June, he said.
Comparisons: Several neighboring counties scored better than York in both health outcomes and health factors, according to the sixth annual report, compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Adams, Lancaster and Cumberland counties ranked No. 17, No. 8 and No. 5 in outcomes and No. 15, No. 9 and No. 4 in health factors.
When the first report was released in 2010, York County ranked 25th in outcomes and 16th in factors.
Since then, the rankings haven't strayed far from 2015's results.
Alvarnaz said it's important to keep in mind that the report is based upon "secondary data" coming from a variety of data sources, some of which date back to 2012 or 2013.
View the full interactive rankings online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.