On average, Pasco County residents are slightly healthier than they were last year.
Out of Florida’s 67 counties, Pasco ranks 37th in health outcomes, according to the University of Wisconsin’s 2016 County Heath Rankings & Roadmaps tool.
That’s four spots better than the county’s ranking last year, when it came in at 41st in the state.
The rankings are a broad measure summarizing county residents’ health status and quality of life.
Comparatively, Hillsborough County ranked 28th in health outcomes in the last two years.
The main reason for the rankings jump can be linked to improvements in the “quality of life” indicator, said Mike Napier, Pasco County’s health officer.
The county leaped from 45th to 24th in the “quality of life” category, which consists of four elements — percentage of residents in poor or fair health, number of poor physical health days per resident, number of poor mental health days per resident and low birth weight percentage.
Napier noted county residents have reported “feeling better than in the past.”
“Part of good health is people feel good,” the health officer said. “That may not mean they’re as healthy when you look at their blood work or all the things they should be, but if you feel healthy, that’s definitely a good sign.”
Napier hopes the county can rise into the “20s” or the top third of the health outcomes ranking by 2020.
To reach that goal, Napier said the department is focusing on creating better access to care—like a mobile dental bus — and decreasing the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as smoking and obesity.
“The big overarching issues are access to care and chronic disease,” he said. “Then you drill down into that a little bit—smoking continues to be a concern that we have people working on, on a daily basis. Obesity continues to be a problem for Pasco, as well as the nation. Obesity is just a symptom. There are a lot of factors that go into obesity, like getting people to eat healthier, and get physical activity.”
According to the rankings, the percentage of adult smokers in Pasco decreased from 26 percent in 2015 to 17 percent this year. However, adult obesity (Body Mass Index of 30 or more) increased slightly, from 29 percent to 30 percent.
In an effort to make the county’s roughly 485,000 residents “healthier,” Napier’s department is working to create collaborative efforts with “nontraditional” partners, such as local chambers of commerce, rotary clubs and private businesses.
Napier hopes these partnerships will have a greater “collective impact” on the community in raising awareness about the negative effects of smoking, promoting better health through healthier eating and perhaps by instituting more exercise options, such as building more bike paths.
“A lot of us are working on the same things, but we don’t always talk to each other about those same things, so we’re trying to bring groups together that are working on common problems,” Napier said. “It’s organized a little better, so we’re all going in the same direction.”
The Pasco County Department of Health has also aligned with organizations like United Way, Alliance for Substance Abuse of Pasco (ASAP) and Premier Health, a fully qualified health center, to help facilitate and fund additional activities for the community.
“We’ve got a lot of great services in our community. We just don’t have a lot of great organization to have that all in a way, where you…combine resources and you get more done with two people doing the same thing,” Napier said.
While the health department is trying to do its part to raise the wellness profile of Pasco residents, Napier pointed out that it will take collaboration and buy-in to achieve the desired results.
“If we get into the 20s ranking, it will be because the community came around the idea, and we collectively made that happen,” Napier said.
The 2016 health outcome ranking for Florida’s 67 counties was recently released. The measure focuses on a county resident’s average length of life and quality of life.
Top five counties for health outcomes:
St. Johns, Collier, Sarasota, Martin, Seminole
Bottom five counties for health outcomes:
Hamilton, Madison, Putnam, Union, Gadsden
Published March 30, 2016