County population exhibits troubling health trend

Citrus County Chronicle

Just The Facts:
• To learn more about or join Citrus County’s Community Health Improvement Partnership, contact the Citrus County Health Department administrative office in Lecanto at 352-513-6004.

THE ISSUE: Citrus County scores slump in health surveys.
OUR OPINION: We all have a part in improving the county’s health.

A year ago we wrote about this, and it’s distressing to see it happening again: Citrus County’s score on a nationally respected health survey continues to slide. Among Florida’s 67 counties, our county’s rank has dropped from 44 three years ago, to 54 in 2018, and to 56 in the 2019 report.

It bears repeating: Each of us has the power to help turn that trend around, and it has to happen through the combination of individual action and targeted community effort. Improvement won’t show up quickly in the aggregate, though there may be individual successes. But going in the wrong direction in these rankings says that the county is not yet on the right track.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, produces annual “County Health Rankings” — health status reports for nearly every county in the nation, including county rankings within states. The 2019 report shows that Citrus County has lost ground in many important measures.

The RWJF study looks at health outcomes — length and quality of life — as well as at health factors, which contribute to those outcomes. Factors include considerations within four categories: health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors. They capture a snapshot of “how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work and play.” An increasing body of research is showing that social determinants of health are among the most important influences.

The RWJF assessment should be viewed in conjunction with the recent update of Citrus County‘s Community Health Needs Assessment. This exhaustive study was performed by WellFlorida Council, the state-designated health planning council for north central Florida.

Citrus County’s assessment update revealed some of the same health-related trouble spots as did the RWJF report, plus it identified five priority focus areas in which improvements would benefit the health of the entire county. Those five areas are:

Mental health issues
• Healthy behaviors and health education
• Child health and safety
• Access to health care
• Promoting “Health in All Policies” (HiAP)

The Community Health Improvement Partnership is forming committees to work on goals and action plans to address each of these priority focus areas. This Partnership encompasses volunteers from throughout the community and welcomes additional stakeholders to work on any of the committees.
Many of the community’s issues have shared root causes and related contributing factors, so improvement strategies could address multiple issues simultaneously. The HiAP concept is a collaborative approach to improving the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors and policy areas. It is being adopted nationwide at multiple levels, from the city of St. Petersburg to several California counties, to the state of New York — and it’s the way of the future.

Citrus County’s poor showing in county health rankings is due in part to failure to improve physical and social determinants of health, but also because other counties have been able to effect needed changes and pull ahead. By collaborating on solutions, Citrus County can reverse the negative trend, and start showing some real health gains.

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