The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 3, 2013

LEVINE: Health issues still a concern for residents

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — The health of Clinton County residents represented a mixed bag in the annual county rankings.

On one hand, the county is making progress in health outcomes. On the other, the county is declining in health factors. The numbers aren’t great on either end, with an 86 ranking on health outcomes and 92 ranking on health factors. That’s measured against 98 other counties in Iowa.

It seems like this has been an ongoing tune for the last four years but there’s still plenty of work to do. But like anything, progress takes time.

Too often in today’s society, we expect changes overnight. If something isn’t correct right now, then the whole process needs to start over from scratch. That results in knee-jerk reactions, and in cases that I’ve seen that implemented, whether in health, sports or business, it doesn’t help.

Much like a quarterback that may need an extra year to develop, plans to change attitudes regarding health take time. And that’s happening on a county level.

Altering someone’s attitude about a particular subject requires education. Luckily, the county has many resources available for residents, thanks in large part to a group that recently changed its name to Let’s Live Healthy! Clinton. This group was formerly the Blue Zones committee that attempted to increase awareness of making healthy choices.

But this committee has only been around for a few years. It needs time to make a real difference, and I’m confident these rankings will get better.

And so far, since 2010, health outcomes have gotten better.

The county ranked 86th in health outcomes in 2013, better than the 93rd ranking in 2012 and 2010. This statistic measures mortality and morbidity.

Residents are above the averages for the state of Iowa in those categories, but those numbers are consistently getting better.

The biggest problem area is the county’s 92nd ranking in health factors, which includes a 99th ranking in health behaviors.

Smoking increased and physical inactivity continues to be a problem. These are issues that improve with increased education. Clinton County isn’t the only place having problems with physical inactivity, considering the shift of children’s entertainment and workplace environments that require massive amounts of sitting all day.

Many parts of the country are struggling to get kids and adults off the couch, away from their computers or video games, and getting them outside. Motivation through school has enhanced in the U.S. to keep kids active, so hopefully physical activity increases over time.

For adults, the modern workplace hinders our ability to stay fit. That’s why it is nice that Clinton has a committee focused on marketing the benefits of better health, and hopefully that message will be catered to local businesses, to help business owners develop new options to keep employees healthier and more alert while working.

And so far, it does appear the committee has helped in one particular area. Physical environment has gotten better each year since 2010. In 2010, the county’s physical environment ranked 98th out of 99 counties. The county now ranks 76th.

This is helped by a strong commitment to safe drinking water, increased access to healthy foods and access to recreational facilities.

There are definitely issues that need to be resolved in regards to the health of Clinton County residents. The focus on improving the health of all citizens has seen an increase in the previous few years, and with time, it will only get better.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.