Allegany County Health Department Looks to Improve County’s Overall Health

A new report issued by the Allegany County Health Department indicates that the county’s overall health outcomes are in need of improvement. The 2011-2012 Community Health Needs Assessment identifies a reduction in adult and adolescent tobacco usage, increase in the percentage of live births, a decrease in the percentage of people with self-diagnosed depression, and an increase in the number of adults and adolescents at a healthy weight as the primary health improvement goals for the county. The Cumberland Times reports:

More and more, the state wants county boards of health to focus on county health needs assessment and improvement plans, said Dr. Sue Raver, the county’s chief health officer.

“We’re required to have a health improvement plan by the end of the year,” Raver said. The plan will be merged into the state health improvement plan. Raver and Lesa Diehl, director of the Mental Health Systems Office, explained the county assessment at a meeting with county commissioners on Monday afternoon.

Health outcome rankings are one area of concern.

“We’re not good and we’re getting worse,” Raver said. Health outcomes deal with mortality of people under 75 years of age as expressed in years of life lost, essentially, early deaths. They also cover morbidity, meaning disease and poor health. Allegany County slipped from 21st to 23rd in health outcomes in Maryland from 2010 to 2011. That’s out of 24 governmental units, just above Baltimore City, which ranks last.

Allegany County is projected to have 8,073 premature deaths compared to a national benchmark of 5,564 for a similar community. Morbidity rankings were hurt by 9.1 percent low birthweight of babies born alive and above-average reporting of poor physical and mental health days by local people over a 30-day period.

On the upside, the county improved overall health factors, rising from 20th to 17th over the course of a year, Raver said. Health factors include items such as diabetes screening, the number of primary care providers available to the population, access to healthy foods and the violent crime rate. The county has a very low crime rate compared to the state as a whole, with 369 violent crimes per 100,000 people compared to the state number of 649 per 100,000. At 15 percent, the number of uninsured is also below the state average of 17 percent. There are not enough primary care physicians and nurses available.

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