Steuben not the healthiest county

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Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Tyler Briggs | Categories:
Hornell, N.Y. — Slim and fit? That’s not exactly how to describe residents in Steuben County, according to a recent national report. Steuben County received an overall rank of 48th out of 62 counties in the state in regards to health, according to a report by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Washington. The report claims to be the first of its kind to rank the overall health of every county in the United States — more than 3,000 of them tallied state by state — by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they are living. Allegany County ranked 52nd, joining several Western New York counties ranked among the poorer in New York in terms of overall health. Putnam County, located north of New York City, ranked first, while the Bronx was rated the worst in the state. Steuben ranks right near the bottom, 60th, in terms of overall health behaviors. The report said 31 percent of adults in the county smoke, above the state average of 20 percent. According to the report, 28 percent of adults in the county are obese, a two-percent larger margin than the statewide average. It also found that 19 percent of adults binge drink — women consuming four drinks or more in one sitting, or men consuming five or more drinks in one sitting — while the state average is 16 percent. “It took me totally by surprise. I didn’t know the survey was going on,” Beverly Butts, health educator with the Steuben County Public Health and Nursing Services, said. She and others at Public Health and Nursing Services haven’t yet fully analyzed all the data from the report, and she is unsure of where all the findings are derived from. Some of the data relies on U.S. Census information from 2000. “It certainly looks concerning. I don’t know how to interpret some of the results,” Butts said. She said the low ranking isn’t from a lack of effort on the part of health officials. “Certainly as an agency, we’re concerned with the health ranking, but we’re more concerned with people’s health than with our numbers or rankings,” Butts said. Obesity, especially with children, is a concern for everyone, including Steuben County. “One of the big challenges is childhood obesity,” she said. “We’re working with other counties to find ways to have an impact ... ways to get kids off the couch. We’ve been working on it for years. It’s always ongoing work. How to affect major change is hard to figure out. We have to have a culture change.” The news wasn’t all bad, in comparison with other counties in the state. Steuben had a much lower violent crime rate — 213 per 100,000 people versus the statewide average of 432 — and a lower percentage of the adult population without health insurance — 13 percent uninsured, compared to the state average of 15 percent. Another bright spot was Steuben’s high-school graduation percentage, at 82 percent, well above the statewide average of 67 percent. However, continuing on in education doesn’t seem to be the case in the county, according to the report. Nineteen percent of adults in Steuben have a four-year college degree, whereas the state average is 31 percent. Steuben ranks 42nd in premature deaths — those to individuals before they reach 75 years of age — and the teen birth rate is 32 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 ot 19, slightly higher than the 28 statewide average. While the county ranked well over the state average of adult smokers, Butts feels that number will start to dwindle. “I really think we’re going in the right direction,” she said, adding places that become smoke-free have a positive effect on people quitting the habit. “There’s also the Southern Tier Tobacco Coalition. There’s a lot of good things we’re doing, trying to discourage people from smoking, but it is an addiction. The goal for most of us in the health field is to try and get people not to start. We work with youth to try and get them not to start. That’ll help with the health of the nation in the future.” To see all the results for Steuben County or other counties across the country, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The Evening Tribune
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