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Shelby ranked 9th for healthiness

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Shelby County moves up from No. 12, and County-Judge Executive Rob Rothenburger says he won’t be satisfied until it’s No. 1.

By Lisa King

Officials say they are excited that the latest County Health Rankings show Shelby County as the ninth healthiest county in the state – a jump from 12th

last year.

 “It’s our endeavor as a community to keep sliding up that scale; we were number twelve last year, and I can tell you that I will not be satisfied until we are number one,” Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said. “What that means is that the entire community is doing everything they can to get healthy and to stay healthy, and that takes in everything from nutrition to just general well being.”

The rankings, released Tuesday the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, evaluate counties on many factors, including smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, and physical inactivity levels, as well as mortality and morbidity (quality of life).

Some of Shelby’s neighbors figured prominently as well, including Oldham County, ranked No. 1, and Spencer County, which came in at No. 4.

In contrast, Owsley, Magoffin and Wolfe counties came in at the bottom of the list.

Appalachian counties were rated the least healthy, and more urban areas and their surrounding communities were at or near the top, including Fayette (No. 10) and Franklin (No. 14). Jefferson County, however, came in at No. 33.

Shelby’s improvement also is a full 10 places from the rankings in 2010.

Brent Whitehouse, account executive for Amedisys Home Health Care, who works closely with health-care professionals throughout Shelby County, said he thinks part of the reason for Shelby’s increasing healthfulness has stemmed from rising health-care costs.

This has made people start to become more concerned that they may not be able to have access to services they could get before, and that awareness is causing them to take their health more seriously, he said.

“Because of the rising cost of health care, I think more and more folks are being more proactive and are taking more control of their health,” he said. “I hope that is going to continue to be a trend, where people are becoming more aware of their medications, they’re more aware of their diet choices, and hopefully that will lead us into healthier lifestyles as a whole.”

Some of the pluses and minuses of Shelby’s rankings include:

§       Four percent of Shelby Countians are afflicted with adult diabetes, compared to the state average of 8 percent.

§       One in four residents is a smoker.

§       The obesity rate is 35 percent.

§       The rate of excessive drinking is 11 percent.

§       There are 28 percent considered to be physically inactive.

That’s a factor that Rothenburger attributes in part to an excellent parks and recreation program.

‘We now have a youth fitness trail, and we are going to continue to look for those projects that are going to excite our community, our children and our adults alike, to get healthy and stay healthy,” he said.

Emergency Medical Services Director Todd Early said he thinks that community leadership has played a huge role in the increasing health of people in Shelby County.

“I think our community leadership here is just so progressive,” he said. “We have things like community gardens, and our leaders have been very aggressive in promoting health initiatives.

“For instance, we were designated the first heart safe community in the state.”

Shelby County received that honor in January from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, a designation for communities that have met a specific set of criteria to respond better to cardiac arrests, having established 376 CPR programs within the past two years.

“I think those types of things make people become more aware of health issues,” Early said. “That’s becoming a trend here, so with that being said, and the fact that we have a very progressive public health department, there’s no way to go but up.”

Renee Blair, director of the North Central Public Health District, said she was glad to hear the county’s ranking has increased and acknowledged the health department’s role in that effort.

“We have been doing some very collaborative work within the medical community and other areas as well,’ she said. “Education is the key. We have approached this a team, and I think people are responding to our message.

“Through education, more and more people are taking ownership of their health and they’re taking the necessary steps to get healthy, from going to their primary care physician, to going to exercise classes to eating better and getting their annual screenings.

“Every sector of the professional community is promoting good health, and more and more people here are responding to that every day.”

 

State’s healthiest counties

1.  Oldham

2.  Boone

3.  Calloway

4.  Spencer

5.  Woodford

6.  Owen

7.  Scott

8.  Washington

9.  Shelby

10.Fayette

Full list:  Visit www.countyhealthrankings.org