Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
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Hernando slips in annual health rankings

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BROOKSVILLE - For the fifth year in a row, Hernando County has slipped in health rankings, according to a report released last week by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Hernando County ranked 50th out of Florida's 67 counties, the report shows. Last year, Hernando ranked 48th. In 2012, Hernando ranked 43rd; and held steady at 41st in 2010 and 2011.

The counties are ranked based on medical data, with numbers reflecting health factors and health outcomes. The overall ranking is broken into different factors affecting overall health including social and economic factors, behaviors such as smoking and obesity, and access to healthy foods and healthcare.

The study found 22 percent of Hernando's population is in poor or fair health, higher than the Florida average at 16 percent.

Hernando also is higher than average when it comes to adult smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and access to exercise,

Hernando ranks lower than average in alcohol-related driving deaths, teen births and sexually transmitted infections.

Ann-Gayl Ellis, spokeswoman and health education consultant with the Department of Health at Hernando County, said the results were "kind of disappointing," especially because the public health department and local hospitals and clinics have been doing outreach work.

"So many people are doing so many things to reach out to the community," Ellis said, adding diabetes screening is a major priority.

Ellis said the county "backtracked" on obesity and tobacco use.

"We've seen a pretty significant increase in the adult obesity rate since 2010," Ellis said.

In 2010, the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps found Hernando had a 25 percent adult obesity rate. This year the number is 29 percent.

Ellis called the rate a "scary jump" and said the state surgeon general recently reported healthy weight has an influence on different diseases and conditions.

"One of the really important messages we're encouraged to take away from these is where you work, live, play and learn really impacts your health," Ellis said.

Ellis said the top-ranked counties in Florida are fairly affluent and have better access to healthcare, healthy food and positive environments.

"Public health rankings say a lot about the importance of a strong economy in the county and healthy business," Ellis added.

Looking forward, Ellis said a recently-formed Community Health Improvement Plan Partnership (CHIPP) is working to identify key health problems that affect Hernando County and join forces with local businesses and nonprofit groups to secure funding for the issues.

One endeavor, the Healthy Weight Project, will start in April and provide residents with free access to a nutritionist.

Other notable figures from the 2014 report:

??22 percent of the county is uninsured. The state average is 25 percent.

??There are about 1,649 residents per primary care physician; 2,695 residents per dentist and 1,806 residents per mental health provider.

??17 percent of the county has severe housing problems, which is lower than the Florida average at 22 percent.

??29 percent of the county's children live in poverty, and 36 percent of the county's children live in single-parent households.

??There were no drinking water violations reported last year.

For more information on Hernando County's health ranking, visit www .countyhealthrankings .org.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday .com

(352) 544-5283

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