County’s health remains steady, according to survey

Auglaize County remains the 10th healthiest county in the state, according to a national survey published recently by the University of Wisconsin.

“County Health Rankings and Roadmaps — A Healthier Nation, County by County” is in its third year of taking a closer look at the health of counties across the country with the end goal being to pinpoint areas communities can work toward improving.

“Some indicators moved up, some moved down,” Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said of the county’s results according to the latest survey findings. “More people are reporting more poor health and poor mental health days than before. It’s hard to know what the causes of that are.”

Thirteen percent of Auglaize County residents report poor or fair health and a little more than three poor mental health days, compared to national benchmarks of 10 percent considering themselves in poor or fair health and 2.3 poor mental health days. State levels were higher in both cases.

At 13 percent, the smoking rate in Auglaize County is down from last year and below the national goal rate of 14 percent and the state average of 15 percent, but at 35 percent, obesity has increased from last year and is above the national benchmark by 10 percent and the state average by 5 percent.

Excessive drinking in Auglaize County at 18 percent is double the national benchmark of 8 percent, but only slightly higher than state number  at 17 percent.

“Culturally, that is part of Auglaize County and many of the counties around here,” Parsons said.

Motor vehicle crash death rates are higher than national and state numbers, while sexually transmitted infections and teen birth rates are lower than the state average.

Twelve percent of the Auglaize County population is uninsured, slightly lower than the state average of 14 percent, but higher than the national benchmark of 11 percent.

Primary care physician ratios are 1,140-to-1 in Auglaize County, higher than rates of 859-to-1 throughout the state and 631-to-1 set as a national benchmark.

Parsons said the results of this year’s survey did report fewer preventable hospital stays and more participation in diabetic screenings.

Premature death rates were listed at 6,000, above the national benchmark of 5,466, but below state numbers of 7,513.

Children listed in poverty were at 13 percent, comparable to the national benchmark but less than state averages. Inadequate social support was listed at 23 percent, slightly above the state rate.

Access to recreational facilities in Auglaize County was low compared to state numbers and significantly less than the national benchmark, while fast food restaurants in Auglaize County were higher than state rates and more than double what they should be compared to the national benchmark.

“You have to take this with a grain of salt,” Parsons said. “It’s hard to come to any definitive conclusion.”

Auglaize County Health Board member Dr. Daniel Harpster remarked as Auglaize County results are changing so are those of other counties in the state.

“Some indicators change year to year making it hard to track trends,” Parsons said of the survey, which pulls information from a large number of studies and data sources.

She said the results of this survey along with local community health assessment data, which is still being gathered, should help provide a direction from which the Health Department can build and best address community needs.

Parsons said they need to get at least a few more of the surveys mailed for the community health assessment returned before they would reach the 50 percent return rate for which they are aiming for the most accurate results.