County health rankings in the TN Valley

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In health outcomes, the highest-ranking counties in descending order are Chester, Centre, Union, Montgomery, Butler, Cumberland, Bucks, Lancaster, Franklin and Adams.

Cambria County ranked 64th overall among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, trailed only by Fulton, Fayette and Philadelphia counties.

Progress is a good thing, but a two-rank change is not a significant one, said Kitty Jerome, researcher for the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Cambria has never ranked higher than 60.

Somerset County came in at No. 34.

When focusing on crime, compared to each other the report takes data from 2012-2014 and shows Ingham County with the highest violent crime rate of 553 people out of 100,000. The full rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Those gathering the data behind the rankings say the reports can be used to target areas of improvement in communities lagging behind the rest of the state. "In the first years, we have brought the rate to even with the state level, with the program participants being recruited from patients flagged as having risk factors in their health records for preterm delivery".

For example, the county's teen birth rate of 15 births per 100,000 females between age 15 and 19 is far below the state's rate of 24, and matches the nation's "top performers". County health departments, parent-teacher organizations, hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits are just some of the groups that can benefit from data and resources.

For Allen County, this year's showing in the annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation county health rankings is a mixed bag.

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Chera Sevcik, community health administrator for Martin and Faribault counties, described a similar outlook on the rankings.

On the plus side, both Cambria and Somerset counties have higher-than average high school graduation rates and ample opportunities to join social organizations. Cambria has about 20 social associations for every 10,000 residents, while Somerset boasts nearly 22 associations for 10,000 people.

The center is a partnership of Johnstown's 1889 Foundation and Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University's Jefferson College of Population Health.

A regional initiative includes those working on health issues in other low-ranked counties, she said.

"I bet the other counties did worse and that is why we improved because in some factors we improved and some we were actually worse", McMahan said. The behaviors that were measured include tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use and sexual activity.

"That is significant and an area of concern because we know that is a forecast of those children's future if they're growing up in poverty", Jerome said. Our children will become more resilient, and grow into stronger, healthier adults with greater economic opportunities if we build communities with quality education, emotional and social support, access to quality health care, and safe, affordable, and stable housing. "We have to go community by community".

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.

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