By the numbers ...
2012 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report out of 59 Colorado counties:
(Moffat County/Routt County)
• Mortality: 47/11
• Morbidity: 51/9
• Health behaviors: 59/5
• Clinical care: 53/6
• Social, economic factors: 33/11
• Physical environment: 11/4
• Overall: 50/9
— Information compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“The single biggest thing that occurred in public health in the entire last century was (the campaign against smoking) during the late 1960s and early 1970s…it has had a remarkable effect. If you could hit those three major players — smoking, drinking and obesity — you would do a lot to improve the wellbeing of the community.”
— Dr. Scott Ellis, Moffat County medical advisor and chief of staff at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, about improving the overall health of Moffat County residents
Last month, Lisa Brown, chief executive officer of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, presented the Moffat County Commission with startling statistics about the health behaviors of local residents.
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a report compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Moffat County residents ranked 50th out of 59 Colorado counties in overall health.
Even more concerning, Moffat County ranked last in health behaviors, a category that rates residents on certain lifestyle choices such as substance abuse, exercise and diet.
On Tuesday, the commission hosted area health care officials for the annual Moffat County Board of Health meeting. The county's health care report card was the primary topic.
Brown said the report is concerning, but there's also an opportunity for change and improvement.
“As far as the whole cycle of change is concerned, we’re at the preliminary stage, which is awareness,” Brown said. “I think there’s definitely an opportunity here … to continue to have conversations and to realize it’s possible to have positive change.”
Commissioner Tom Gray said he's already beginning to see community members take ownership of their health.
“I think awareness is an important first step and I’ve had some personal conversations with people who have decided to make some positive changes in their lifestyle,” he said. “I think that’s where it needs to start.
“I don’t think there is anything we can do (as government officials and healthcare providers) to make people eat healthier, aside from education.”
But, Scott Ellis, Moffat County medical advisor and chief of staff at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, said true lifestyle changes aren't always enough for people to lead healthier lives. Economics plays a pivotal role in public health, he said, particularly when it comes to obesity.
“Lifestyle diseases caused by excessive smoking, drinking and obesity are incredibly costly on the public health care system,” Ellis said. “I’ve seen the economics of this. It’s much easier for a family of four or five to drive through McDonald's than it is to eat healthier foods, which are unfortunately more expensive.”
Officials continued to discuss ways to encourage healthy life choices, but debated where government intervention might infringe on the rights of individuals to make their own decisions.
They reached the conclusion that government intervention is not the way to encourage healthier behavior.
However, Ellis said addressing smoking, drinking and obesity in any form would lead to clear improvement in the county's overall health profile.
“The single biggest thing that occurred in public health in the entire last century was (the campaign against smoking) during the late 1960s and early 1970s … it has had a remarkable effect,” Ellis said. “If you could hit those three major players — smoking, drinking and obesity — you would do a lot to improve the wellbeing of the community.”