More work needed to make Chautauqua County a healthier place to live

MAYVILLE – Among 62 New York State counties, Chautauqua ranks 54th in the category of Health Outcomes and 48th in the category of Health Factors, according to a report released March 26th by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Health Outcomes measure remains the same as 2013, while the Health Factors measure improved from last year’s ranking of 49th.

“These rankings emphasize that promoting healthy communities requires that we address the social determinants of health, such as transportation, education, access to healthy food and exercise, behavior choices, economic opportunities, and more,” said Christine Schuyler, County’s Director of Health and Human Services. “I am energized by all of the collaborative efforts that are underway to help us positively impact the health and welfare of all.”

The Health Outcomes category focuses on mortality (death) and morbidity (illness) and looks at factors such as premature death, number of poor physical and mental health days, and occurrence of low birth weight babies. The Health Factors category consists of subcategories including health behaviors (smoking, obesity, alcohol intake, etc.), clinical care, social and economic factors (unemployment, education, crime, etc.), and the physical environment (built environment and quality of environment).

Ranked 22nd out of the 62 counties, Clinical Care was Chautauqua County’s best category. Contributing to this measure were relatively minimal preventable hospital stays, optimal screenings of diabetic Medicare enrollees, and relatively high rates of mammography screenings. A high ratio of patients to primary care physicians, dentists, and mental health providers lowered the ranking for this area.

Chautauqua County’s lowest ranked area was Physical Environment. Number 53 out of the 62 counties, this ranking was negatively affected by the number of days with high levels of particulate matter and a high percentage of residents driving to work alone. Chautauqua County also experienced a higher rate of premature death than many other counties in New York State, ranking 54th. Other factors that worsened rankings in the County included excessive drinking, teen birth rates, and percent of children in poverty.

As a snapshot of Chautauqua County, the latest report says:

  • 24 percent of adults smoke, compared to 17 percent statewide.
  • 28 percent of adults are obese, compared to 24 percent statewide.
  • Premature death (measured as years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population) – 6,713 years compared to 5,650 years statewide.
  • 62 percent of adults have access to exercise opportunities, compared to 89 percent statewide.
  • 21 percent of adults drink alcohol excessively, compared to 17 percent statewide.
  • 33 percent of children are in poverty, compared to 23 percent statewide.
  • 36 percent of children are raised in a single-parent household, compared to 35 percent statewide.
  • 80 percent of people drive to work alone, compared to 54 percent statewide.
  • 18 percent of people who drive alone have a long commute, compared to 35 percent statewide.
  • 13.3 days with high levels of particulate matter in the air (air pollution), compared to 11.7 days statewide
  • The ratio of patients to primary care providers was 1,976:1, compared to 1,216:1 statewide.
  • 65 percent mammography screening rate, compared to 63 percent statewide.
  • 8 percent of babies are low birthweight, compared to 8.2 percent statewide.
  • 33 teen births per 1,000 females aged 15-19, compared to 24 statewide.
  • 383 cases of Chlamydia (sexually transmitted disease) per 100,000 population, compared to 528 statewide.
  • 83 percent graduate from high school, compared to 77 percent statewide.
  • 8.5 percent unemployment rate, compared to 8.5 percent statewide.
  • 215 violent crime rate per 100,000 population, compared to 392 statewide.

The problem areas highlighted by the County Health Rankings are not new issues, and many organizations throughout the county are working to make positive health changes. Examples include:

The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services coordinates the Community Transformation Grant in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health. The grant aims to prevent the occurrence of future chronic disease in the county by creating long-lasting opportunities that will positively influence the health behaviors of children ages 0-18 across a continuum of child-centered environments. These environments include early child care institutions, schools, and the community at large in the target areas of Dunkirk, Jamestown and Silver Creek.

Within the last year, CCDHHS secured the Maternal and Infant Community Health Collaborative grant program which aims to improve maternal and infant health outcomes. Through the program, community health workers assist low-income mothers in accessing pregnancy and medical services to ensure better health through the baby’s first year. CCDHHS also has plans in place to create community supports for breastfeeding mothers.

Other coordinated efforts include the County’s Employability Coalition; Substance Abuse Forum; Dream It, Do It; Chautauqua County Health Network’s Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, and Play project; the Local Foods Coalition (Farm to School, Farm to Table, etc.); the Eat Smart New York program; the Friends of the Chautauqua Greenways; and many other efforts. All of this work is in addition to the wellness programs available at worksites, schools, hospitals and other institutions around the county.

While the County Health Rankings provide a system to compare population health among counties at the state level and nationwide, the Chautauqua County Com-munity Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan 2014-2017 remain better resources to obtain and evaluate health data and health issues at a local level. These were recently completed and are available online at: chautauqua.ny.us/241/Public-Health.

Of the eight counties in Western New York, five ranked in the lowest quartile for Health Outcomes: Niagara (59), Chautauqua (54), Erie (53), Cattaraugus (52) and Orleans (49). In that same area, three counties ranked in the lowest quartile for Health Factors: Orleans (61), Cattaraugus (55) and Chautauqua (48).

The online County Health Rankings report is available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.