County’s health improves

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 The health of Levy County has begun to improve, according to the fourth annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which was released March 20 by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  These community rankings provide a snapshot of the health of nearly every county in all 50 states, pinpoint areas to improve and foster conversation around health topics.

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps uses standardized measures to identify specific factors such as the quality of the outdoor environment, interactions in schools, workplaces, and surrounding neighborhoods to determine the health of individual counties and compare them among the state. It focuses on these contributing factors because where we work, live and play has the most impact on our health, not the interaction at the doctor’s office.

Since its inception in 2010 Levy County has moved up in the health outcomes rankings from the 67th to the 57th position. This current spot identifies where the county stands in 2013.  This category measures ‘how healthy the residents are today’ and takes into account the morbidity and mortality of the residents in the county and identifies issues such as mental health, low birth weight, premature death and levels of physical activity.  

The county has also seen a slight improvement in the health factors category, moving from the 55th rank to the 54th rank since 2010.  The health factors category measures ‘how healthy the residents will be tomorrow’ and takes into account specific factors such as obesity, teen birth rate, access to health care, the high school graduation rate, and the violent crime rate. 

In Levy County, there are areas of progress and continuing opportunity when it comes to improving the health of the residents.  Despite the improvements, the rankings highlighted areas that should be further explored due to the high rate of the health behavior identified in the county compared to state.  Levy County has significantly higher rates of adult smoking, adult obesity, motor vehicle crash rates, violent crime rate and teen birth rates.  The county also has a low high school graduation rate and levels of physical activity.  These are all contributing factors to the 2013 rankings. 

One of the most alarming health factors identified in the rankings is that the number of primary care physicians across Florida is decreasing. This is especially prevalent in Levy County, where for every 5,000 people there is one physician.  Access to care plays a huge role on the health of the community and its residents.  Improving screening and preventative care will help improve the health of the residents in Levy County and Florida. 

Community involvement and partnership is key to the improvement of the health of the residents.  “Health knows no boundaries,” said Barbara Locke, Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Levy County.  “While today’s report presents county level rankings, we realize that promoting health involves a broad spectrum of partners in government, education, business and civic organizations that are not necessarily limited geographically.”   The County Health Rankings should be a call to action for the community partners in Levy County to join together to make improvements in the health of the community.  

“The Florida Department of Health works every day to bring together community partners around shared goals to improve health,” said Dr. John Armstrong, Surgeon General and Secretary of Health.  “As we track our progress, we are reminded there is no finish line in our efforts for better health.”