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Dauphin, Cumberland counties at opposite ends of state health rankings

Cumberland County ranked No. 5 in the state for health outcomes as measured by length and quality of life, according to this year’s County Health Rankings report.

Dauphin County, on the other hand, came in at 51 out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania.

The report is released annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The rankings provide a snapshot of local data showing how counties across the nation compare on more than 30 health-related factors such as education, housing, jobs, smoking and access to healthy food.

The goal is to use the data to inspire action, according to Bridget Catlin, co-director of the County Health Rankings.

 “Whether it’s addressing health gaps between counties or the concentration of poverty in rural or residentially segregated communities— targeting resources to the people and places in greatest need is essential to building a culture of health,” Caitlin said. “The rankings are an important springboard for conversations on how to expand opportunity for all to be healthy.”

Dauphin County hospital weighs in

In Dauphin County, PinnacleHealth System recognizes the county’s lower health rankings.

It uses the ratings, along with other data, in its annual Community Health Needs Assessment, which evaluates its footprint of Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Lebanon and northern York counties, according to Tina Nixon, vice president for mission effectiveness.

This year the health system has identified three priorities to focus on – behavioral health, healthy lifestyles and access to health.

It is working with health care partners such as South Middleton Township-based Carlisle Regional Medical Center, Harrisburg-based Hamilton Health Center, East Pennsboro Township-based Holy Spirt – A Geisinger Affiliate, Derry Township-based Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, State and Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute.

The partners are discussing a plan to address these different priorities, and Nixon expects they are about a month away from completing it.

Although each area is crucial in improving community health factors, one area that is increasing at an alarming rate is substance abuse, which falls under behavioral health.

“The one thing I think that’s on everyone’s mind when you talk about drugs and alcohol is the increase in heroin overdoses,” Nixon said. “How do we address that as a community?”

Midstate data

As for the rest of the midstate’s health outcomes, the range is wide.

Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties didn’t lag far behind Cumberland, placing at 9th, 16th and 15th, respectively.

Although Cumberland County maintained its ranking from 2015 at fifth place, the rest of the counties dropped in health outcomes except for York, which increased four spots.  

The report also ranks counties by health factors, which measure weighted scores for healthy behaviors, clinical care, the physical environment and social and economic factors.

Cumberland County ranked the highest in the midstate in health factors as well, leading in fourth place.

Next is Lancaster, ranking the same as it did for health outcomes at 9th.

Lebanon, York and Dauphin counties ranked 10th, 19th and 26th, respectively.

The rankings are largely impacted by the demographics in each county, according to Nixon.

Lenay Ruhl

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