Poor health habits persist for Moffat County, according to rankings | CraigDailyPress.com

Poor health habits persist for Moffat County, according to rankings

Moffat County is working to change its health ranking statistics.

— Moffat County continues to struggle with poor health behaviors such as smoking, drinking, physical inactivity and teen births, according to the 2015 County Health Rankings released last week.

It ranked last in the state in the category of health behaviors among the 60 counties surveyed, a position which it has occupied for three of the past four years.

"Health behaviors are some of the most difficult and important for us to address as they involve personal choice," said Charity Neal, public health director for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "All we can do is offer support to people when they do choose to change those behaviors."

Moffat County fared better in regards to social and economic factors and physical environment, ranking well within the top 50 percent of counties statewide. It boasted a high school graduation rate of 83 percent, 8 points higher than the state average, a slightly lower unemployment rate and about half as much violent crime compared with the state.

Released once a year, County Health Rankings are a collaborative effort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to health, and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The numbers don't always paint a complete picture, Neal said.

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The 2015 data showed that 22 percent of adults in Moffat County smoke, compared to 17 percent statewide.

"The smoking measure is the same self-report survey from 2006-2012 as it was last year, so it's really not a good indicator if we've moved the mark or not," Neal said. "We've had over 1,000 smoking cessation encounters in our prevention program."

It doesn't necessarily mean 1,000 people have successfully quit, Neal said, but "it means we've at least had a conversation."

The data also shows that among adults in Moffat County, about a quarter are obese, physically inactive and drink excessively, compared to only 15 to 20 percent of adults statewide.

Another trend revealed in the rankings is that Moffat County is home to significantly fewer doctors per capita than the average statewide, including primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers. The higher ratio isn't unusual in rural communities, though, said Jennifer Riley, chief of marketing and business development for The Memorial Hospital.

"I think access to care in our community has improved tremendously," Riley said, with TMH two new family medicine doctors starting at TMH in 2014 and another slated to begin next month. "I think our primary care needs are being met."

Access to mental health care is still a challenge that Mind Springs Health in Craig is working to meet. Moffat County has nearly half as many mental health providers per capita compared with the state average, according to the report.

New efforts are also being made to address Moffat County's persistently high teen pregnancy rates, led by the VNA. The organization recently applied for a federal grant to bolster a multi-agency effort — including the school district — to reduce the number of teen pregnancies.

"It's about what the community is ready, willing and able to tackle," Neal said. "Our public health philosophy moving forward is we don't want to do things for the community, we want to do things with the community because that will impact things more going forward."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County health rankings

Category, Rank in Colorado out of 60 ranked counties in 2015, 59 counties in 2011-2014

2015

Health outcomes and overall health, 45

Length of life, 45

Quality of life, 42

Health factors, 45

Health behaviors, 60

Clinical care, 53

Social and economic factors, 28

Physical environment, 21

2014

Health outcomes and overall health, 47

Length of life, 49

Quality of life, 41

Health factors, 43

Health behaviors, 57

Clinical care, 52

Social and economic factors, 28

Physical environment, 25

2013

Health outcomes and overall health, 44

Length of life, 49

Quality of life, 41

Health factors, 47

Health behaviors, 59

Clinical care, 49

Social and economic factors, 27

Physical environment, 13

2012

Health outcomes and overall health, 50

Length of life, 47

Quality of life, 51

Health factors, 49

Health behaviors, 59

Clinical care, 53

Social and economic factors, 33

Physical environment, 11

2011

Health outcomes and overall health, 44

Length of life, 43

Quality of life, 47

Health factors, 45

Health behaviors, 55

Clinical care, 55

Social and economic factors, 31

Physical environment, 41

— Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

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