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Citrus among unhealthiest of Florida’s counties

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THE ISSUE:

Health rankings show Citrus County in the lowest level.

OUR OPINION:

Many contributing factors are controllable.

 

People get tired of being reminded that they should be practicing healthy habits. Everybody knows, for example, that eating better and exercising more is good practice. However, we don’t want to hear about what poor choices we’re making when we’re in line at the fast-food place, or sitting at the computer for hours or enjoying that cigarette.

Individual choices make a difference to more than just the individual; they influence policymakers and they affect the community overall. In Citrus County, we have two major reports on health of our county, and they both tell us we have plenty of room for improvement.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute together recently issued the annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps publication. This report examines health outcomes and the factors that influence them in all 3,000-plus counties in the United States, and ranks counties within each state. Unfortunately, in a ranking of Florida’s 67 counties, with 1 being the best, Citrus County is No. 52. Data for this study are drawn from more than 25 different sources.

For health outcomes, the study considers length and quality of life. For contributing health factors, it looks at health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. As the report points out, “health is about more than what happens at the doctor’s office. The places where we live, learn, work, and play, the choices we make, and the opportunities we have all matter to our physical, mental, and social well-being.”

An earlier report on Citrus County’s health is the Community Health Assessment (CHA), delivered in 2015 by WellFlorida Council, the state-designated health planning council serving Citrus County. The CHA included input from about 1,000 community members regarding health needs, issues and concerns. An accompanying document, the voluminous Technical Assessment, contains detailed tables and charts on county demographics and a range of health issues. The CHA provided recommendations for key areas to improve Citrus County’s health.

Both reports point to some facts of life in Citrus County. First, we have an access-to-care issue, related to both poverty and the availability of enough health care providers of all types. 

We also have issues related to “health behaviors” — smoking, obesity and physical inactivity, among others. 

Lack of funds complicates things: Fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than fast food, and sometimes transportation adds greater complexity.

So what do we do with these information snapshots? If we do nothing, we’ll continue bumping along the bottom of the curve. But if we make some serious community efforts, we can improve our health, quality of life and, as an added benefit, our economic condition as well. 

A healthy, active community is desired and valued by the industry, businesses and young adults we’re trying to attract to Citrus County.

The Citrus County Health Department took the lead, and is guiding the Community Health Improvement Partnership, or CHIP. This volunteer group of community members identified four strategic areas in which, if we make some gains, we’ll positively influence the county’s health. 

CHIP’s four focus areas are: access to care; mental health and substance abuse; healthiest weight and lifestyle; and availability of healthy foods. For each, a committee is focusing on ways to make those improvements.

Health Department administrator Tito Rubio encourages community members to get involved in improving our community’s health by working with one of the CHIP committees or another community health program. He also wants people to make good choices, for example by including moderate exercise in weekly routines, making healthy food choices daily and scheduling regular checkups with a primary care health provider.

Take steps now — literally and figuratively — to help make Citrus County one of the healthiest counties in Florida.

 

ON THE NET

n See the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report for Citrus County: tinyurl.com/snapshot-citrus

n See the Community Health Assessment for Citrus County at the WellFlorida Council website: http://wellflorida.org/publications/county/. Scroll down to Citrus County and choose the report from the list.

n Hear WellFlorida Council CEO Jeff Feller address the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners on April 25 about the County Health Ranking report and the health of Citrus County by watching live at citrusbocc.com.

n Want to join a Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP) committee? Contact Health Department administrator Tito Rubio at 352-527-0068.