LIMA — In an annual nationwide survey looking at who’s healthiest in Ohio, Putnam and Mercer counties ranked highest in the region, and Allen County had the most improved ranking regionally.
Putnam County was ranked among the highest in the state, with second best health outcomes and sixth best health factors. Allen County was ranked 35th for health outcomes out of the state’s 88 counties, and 74th for health factors.
Kim Rieman, health education director with the Allen County Health Department, said Allen County's abnormally large rank gap between health outcomes and health factors could point to poor quality of life in the long run.
The biggest challenges in Allen County are health behaviors, which ranked 83rd out of the 88 counties. Habits like tobacco and alcohol use, diet and exercise and prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases were all factored in from various self-reported surveys taken between 2004 and 2011.
“Technology has kind of engineered physical activity out of our lives in a lot of ways,” said Kathy Luhn, Health Commissioner with the Allen County Health Department. “People have to make more of a conscious effort. One of the things we’re trying to do through initiatives like Activate Allen County is to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
The initiative, along with other community programs, has attempted to counter those numbers.
“There’s the behaviors, what people choose to do, and then there’s the environment that they live in,” Luhn said. “If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you have to look at all the things you have to do to get an apple. You have to be able to get to the store. Does the store you get to have apples? And once you get to the store, do you decide to spend your money on an apple, or do you buy something else? So it’s a whole host of factors that go into what keeps people healthy.”
Overall, Allen County numbers in most areas have improved.
“We are more toward the middle,” Rieman said. “When we started looking at these, we were more toward the bottom, so we’re seeing some increases and some betterment so we are thrilled to see that.”
For Hardin County, ranked 59th for health outcomes and 44th for health factors, was ranked 74th out of 88 counties for clinical care.
“We’re a health care shortage area, we always have been,” said Cindy Keller, director of nursing at Kenton-Hardin Health Department.
With the recent opening of an Allen County Health Partners branch office in Kenton, Keller said she hopes to see those numbers improve in the future.
On the other hand, Putnam County was ranked near the top.
“It’s a great thing,” said Joan Kline, health educator at the Putnam County Health Department. “One of the things while we do have a lot of positive things, our mortality and morbidity rates are (ranked) very high.”
The county was ranked second for health outcomes in 2013; it was ranked fourth in 2012 and 6th in 2011. Kline said the newly formed Live Healthy Live Happy Putnam County initiative, which started in 2012, hopefully can continue to keep the rankings high in the future. Most surveys were taken before the initiative formed.
While various rankings have changed from year to year, the health factor rankings can be difficult to compare with one another because the parameters change each year.
“It’s not comparing oranges to oranges or apples to apples,” said Becky Dershem, director of nursing with the Allen County Health Department.
To look at the rankings in more detail by county, visit http://bit.ly/10iKIab.