2010 Feb. 24: PA Cumberland County: Three major interstates converge Because of this, air quality in this area is among the worst in the country, which is reflected in the report.

Cumberland County among healthiest counties in state

Air quality

2010 Feb. 24: PA Cumberland County: Three major interstates converge Because of this, air quality in this area is among the worst in the country, which is reflected in the report.

Cumberland County was ranked 23rd in the state for physical environment — its only real black eye in this report.

“What we hear from local physicians and from people who suffer from respiratory problems is that people who have them require more frequent use of treatments, using stronger treatments in recent years than they did in the past,” Fickeisen said. “Poor air quality remains a significant health issue for adults who suffer from respiratory disease and for children whose lungs are still developing, and whose lung development may be impeded by poor air quality.”

Harris agreed, stating that his office does see a lot of people with asthma and other respiratory issues who were stable before moving to this area.

Thomas Au, president of CAB, called it a mixed report because of the environmental issue.

“There are things we can improve upon. There are things we can do for public construction,” he said, noting that a lot of stationary equipment could be retrofitted with cleaner engines that emit less diesel particulate.

New national report ranks each county within all 50 states

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By Jason Scott, Sentinel Reporter, February 24, 2010

Last updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 8:08 AM EST

1 comment(s)

Cumberland County is one of the healthiest counties in the state, according to a new national report that ranks each state’s counties.

The County Health Rankings, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute was released Feb. 17 and lists Cumberland County as the ninth best in health outcomes — how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive.

It was ranked fourth for health factors, or what influences the health of a county. For this, the study measured health behaviors (tobacco or alcohol use, diet and exercise); clinical care (access and quality of care); social and economic (education, employment and income); and physical environment factors.
“Interesting, and perhaps not too surprising,” said Duane Fickeisen, vice president of the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania, about the rankings, given that Cumberland County ranks above the state average in education and income and has lower unemployment and childhood poverty.

The report found that the high school graduation rate was 86 percent in 2007-08, compared to 83 percent statewide. The percentage of those with college degrees was 32 percent, using data from 2000 and 2005-07, compared to the 26 percent state average.

County unemployment was at 4 percent in 2008, compared to 5 percent in Pennsylvania.

In Focus
The County Health Rankings ranked Dauphin County 47th for health outcomes and 34th for health factors.
Other counties in the region were listed as follows:
• Lancaster was eighth in outcomes and ninth in factors.
• Franklin was 10th in outcomes and 13th in factors.
• Lebanon was 15th in outcomes and factors.
• York was 25th in outcomes and 16th in factors.
• Adams was 21st in outcomes and seventh in factors.
For more information about the county rankings in the report, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“That suggests to me that we have better than average access to health care,” Fickeisen said about those factors. “It looks like our lifestyles are more healthy. Smoking, obesity and access to healthy foods are better than average, for example.”

Not surprised

Bets McManus, executive director of the Carlisle Area Health and Wellness Foundation, was also not surprised by the strength of Cumberland County in the ranking.

“Cumberland County, for a variety of reasons, just has a lot of support to have a healthy community,” she said.

She noted that there is a definite relationship between income level and eating habits. Those with more income tend to make healthier choices about food, she said.

Children in poverty was measured at 7 percent in Cumberland County, using 2007 data, compared to 16 percent statewide. Single-parent households was just 6 percent in the county, which is less than the 9 percent average.

The report ranked Cumberland County fifth among the 67 counties for social and economic factors, behind Chester, Montgomery, Centre and Bucks counties.

The CAHWF also serves residents in Perry County, which ranked 35th in health outcomes and 32nd in health factors.

“It confirmed what we had sensed,” McManus said. “Perry County definitely does struggle harder to have a healthier community.”

A number of factors contribute to this, she said, including transportation barriers — kids being able to get to after-school activities — in more rural areas like Perry County and the western part of Cumberland County.

There are also resource and economic barriers in these areas, she noted.

“Sometimes there is a lack … there are no Gold’s Gyms or YMCAs or those facilities,” McManus said.

Dr. Jeffrey Harris, a family physician at Graham Medical Clinic in Newville and a member of the medical executive committee at Carlisle Regional Medical Center, said his two biggest concerns are obesity and smoking in this area.

Cumberland County residents have great access to health care, he said, but based on what he has seen, contrary to the report, adult smoking and obesity are higher here than in other parts of the state and around the country.

Smoking was at 21 percent in the report, using data from 2002-08. The state average was 23 percent.

Obesity came in at 26 percent over the 2006-08 period in Cumberland County, compared to 28 percent in the state.

“I still think there is an increasing obesity rate,” Harris said. “The smoking rate is higher here.”

How to improve on those numbers is a tough question to answer, he said: “There are many methods available.”

The county ranked eighth in the health behaviors category.

“I think a lot of obesity is due to the way we are raised. We need to change the mindset about what foods we’re eating and our activity levels,” Harris said. “The main thing we can do to get healthier is we need to not smoke. Smoking and obesity are by far the two biggest health concerns.”

Air quality

Three major interstates converge in Cumberland County, making it a natural hub for transportation and business travel.

Because of this, air quality in this area is among the worst in the country, which is reflected in the report.

Cumberland County was ranked 23rd in the state for physical environment — its only real black eye in this report.

“What we hear from local physicians and from people who suffer from respiratory problems is that people who have them require more frequent use of treatments, using stronger treatments in recent years than they did in the past,” Fickeisen said. “Poor air quality remains a significant health issue for adults who suffer from respiratory disease and for children whose lungs are still developing, and whose lung development may be impeded by poor air quality.”

Harris agreed, stating that his office does see a lot of people with asthma and other respiratory issues who were stable before moving to this area.

Thomas Au, president of CAB, called it a mixed report because of the environmental issue.

“There are things we can improve upon. There are things we can do for public construction,” he said, noting that a lot of stationary equipment could be retrofitted with cleaner engines that emit less diesel particulate.

CAB officials said they are pleased with local efforts to adopt stricter engine idling restrictions, but said we aren’t doing enough until our air quality is at least in compliance with federal standards.

“Although even those may not be sufficiently stringent to protect the most vulnerable and those with the greatest exposure from proximity to sources of diesel exhaust,” Fickeisen said.

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