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National Rankings Show Improved Health in Carroll, Haralson, Heard Counties

Residents in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties are becoming healthier, according to a national report on health that ranked all the counties in the United States.
 
According to the annual County Health Rankings report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, each of the three counties showed significantly improved “health outcomes” from last year’s report.
 
The report considers more than 30 factors that affect health across every county in all 50 states. Those factors include high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, the portion of people without health insurance, teen births, the quality of local air and water and other metrics shown to impact a community’s overall health.
 
Each county is ranked on two overall measures — health outcomes and health factors. The health outcomes measure includes rates of premature death and how people reported their overall health in surveys. For health factors, the report detailed behaviors such as adult tobacco use, physical inactivity and teen births, as well as clinical care issues, socioeconomic factors and the physical environment.
 
This year’s health rankings show Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties all improved in their residents’ health outcomes from the 2016 rankings, with Heard County demonstrating the most gains. Heard County is now ranked 43rd out of the 159 Georgia counties in its residents’ health outcomes — placing it in the top 27 percent of counties in the state — and up from its ranking of 60th in the state in health outcomes last year. The health outcomes ranking improved in large part because of a decrease in the county’s “premature deaths,” or deaths before age 75.
 
Heard County also improved from 66th to 62nd for health factors, partly attributable to a decrease in the percentage of alcohol-impaired driving deaths, which was down from 31 percent to 20 percent. The county also had positive long-term trends in preventable hospital stays as residents continued to keep chronic diseases under control before hospitalization was necessary.
 
Carroll County improved its health outcomes rank almost 10 places, from 58th last year to 49th this year. While the county’s health factors rank decreased slightly, from 60th last year to 68th this year, there were improvements in the areas of physical inactivity and a drop in teen births.
 
This year, 28 percent of adults age 20 and over reported no leisure-time physical activity, compared to 29 percent in 2016. The teen birth rate improved from 44 per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2016 to 41 this year.
 
 
Haralson County improved from 95th to 81st in health outcomes and improved from 55th to 47th for health factors. The county also lost some significant weight, showing a significant improvement in the percentage of adults who report a BMI of 30 or more. That percentage went from 29 percent to 27 percent.
 
According to the report, two other positive long-term trends in Haralson County are a lower number of preventable hospitable stays and a higher portion of people with diabetes receiving regular monitoring to help control their diabetes.
 
The report trends closely to the findings in Tanner’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), conducted last year. The assessment was a follow-up to a similar study the health system conducted in 2013 and included surveying more than 1,100 community members on a range of health issues. The assessment provides a better understanding of the community’s health concerns and needs, and provides a framework to address those needs and improve community health.
 
“To better serve our community, we have to understand our community’s needs, and the CHNA process gives us that opportunity,” said Denise Taylor, senior vice president and chief community health, strategy and brand officer for Tanner. “It’s given us, as a health system, more insight into the obstacles our neighbors face in achieving better health, and we’ve used that information to plan ways to overcome those obstacles.”
 
Some of Tanner’s work overcoming those barriers — including sedentary lifestyles, tobacco use, access to medical care and more — tie directly back to the County Health Rankings’ findings.
 
Rural counties nationwide have higher rates of obesity, smoking, teen births and uninsured adults than do urban counties. Tanner Health System has worked to improve the health of people in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties by expanding access to clinical services; recruiting physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals to the region; continuing to focus on delivering high-quality services and an exceptional experience for patients and their loved ones; and developing innovative, wellness and prevention-focused community collaborations like Get Healthy, Live Well.
 
Get Healthy, Live Well partners with an array of community organizations, working to reach more than 150,000 residents in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties with a variety of evidence-based interventions that promote healthier lifestyles. The interventions include programs helping people quit tobacco, improve access to healthy foods, increase physical activity and prevent or manage chronic diseases like diabetes.
 
Tanner and Get Healthy, Live Well have made it a priority to expand community health efforts with an innovative community-clinical linkages (CCL) model that creates a bridge between the clinic or doctor’s office and its evidence-based programs, including the Diabetes Prevention Program, Living Well workshops for chronic disease and diabetes and the Freshstart tobacco cessation program. There are currently 50 medical providers referring to Get Healthy, Live Well’s programming. Since launching the CCL program in February 2016, almost 350 individuals have been referred and registered.
 
“We know the best way to improve people’s health is to help them prevent health problems from developing in the first place,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “Programs like Get Healthy, Live Well can do that by helping people find ways to develop healthy habits and better manage their health. That’s why Tanner started the program and why we continue to be so committed to it.”
 
More information about the Get Healthy, Live Well initiative is available at GetHealthyLiveWell.org. More information about Tanner is available online at tanner.org.
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