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Healthy Oregon

Oregon ranked 13th out of the 50 states in the United Health Foundations 2013 health rankings


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Pioneer Memorial Hospital nurse Rebecca Schmidt assists a patient receiving a CT scan.

When it comes to overall health, Oregon fares better than many of its fellow states.

A recently-released United Health Foundation study revealed that Oregon currently ranks 13th out of 50 states. The state topped the country in physical activity while rates of preventable hospitalizations and occupational fatalities were lower than all but four states.

At the same time, the study showed that Oregon struggles with low graduation rates, ranking 34th, and faces a high prevalence of obesity and diabetes, as well as a high quantity of smokers. Obesity increased 2 percent from the past year and the prevalence of diabetes went up 6 percent. About 820,000 adults are obese in Oregon and another approximately 300,000 are diabetic. Meanwhile, the percentage of smokers statewide rose from 15.1 percent to 17.9 percent, bring the total to about 530,000 adult smokers.

Dr. Roger Muller, medical director for UnitedHealthcare in Oregon, said the study provides a much-needed look at the health challenges that the state faces.

“This report is an important tool for designing meaningful programs to address our biggest challenges and to help us measure the progress we’ve made in our efforts to date.”

The health ranking did not break data down to the county level, however county health ranking conducted earlier this year reveal the health success and struggles of Crook County versus the rest of the state.

Crook County excels in health outcomes and mortality, ranking eighth out of 36 counties in both categories, which factor in premature death rates as well as the rate of low birth weight and overall physical and mental health.

The community rated even more favorably for physical environment, which considers drinking water quality, access to recreational activities and healthy foods, and quantity of fast food restaurants.

However, Crook County faces the same obesity and alcohol and tobacco use struggles that the rest of the state does.

“Tobacco is still the biggest cost to our county,” said Carly Rachocki, health promotion specialist for the Crook County Health Department. She noted that local youth smoking, drinking, and drug use exceeds the state average. In addition, about 22 percent of pregnant women smoke.

“That is a lot higher than the rest of the state,” Rachocki said.

With obesity, the primary challenge facing Crook County is physical inactivity, an issue many rural communities share.

“There isn’t the infrastructure there to go for a walk or ride your bike,” Rachocki explained. She went on to note that some people in rural areas live so far from town, they are not necessarily willing to ride their bike or walk when they go to work or run errands.

Work has been under way in recent years to improve local walking and biking infrastructure to boost local health. The Health Department has partnered with Crook County to complete a Health Impact Assessment. Data from that report has helped pave the way for remodeling the Ochoco Creek bike path.

In addition to improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure, community health leaders have made a point of recruiting more local physicians, although Rachocki said there is still a need for more.

Amidst all of the local successes and challenges, as well as those statewide, the health of Americans overall is seemingly trending in the right direction. Most noteworthy is physical inactivity dropped from 26.2 percent in 2012 to 22.9 percent in 2013, and smoking rates decreased from 21.2 percent to 19.6 percent during the same timeframe.

“We should celebrate these gains,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices that will continue progress in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”



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