Health Rankings Released: Genesee & Orleans Near Bottom of List
Written by Dan Fischer on March 19, 2019
According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) the Genesee and Orleans Counties rank 42nd and 52nd respectively in overall Health Outcomes. The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
“As Chief Health Strategists, we use the County Health Rankings to help us identify factors that are important for residents to live long and healthy lives and understand how we compare to other counties in the state. With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve the health of our residents,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “The county with the lowest score (best health) gets a rank of #1 for that state and the county with the highest score (worst health) is assigned a rank corresponding to the number of total counties ranked in each state. New York State has 62 counties.”
The rankings are broken into to two main categories, Health Outcomes which include length of life and quality of life and Health Factors which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Genesee County ranked 42 out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes and 29 in Health Factors. Orleans County ranked 52 in Health Outcomes and 54 in Health Factors.
“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” stated Pettit. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”
According to the 2019 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State (NYS) starting with most healthy are Rockland, followed by Nassau, Westchester, Saratoga, and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Niagara.
What’s new for 2019? This year’s Rankings explore severe housing cost burden and health. The 2019 Key Findings Report highlights the link between housing and health that the RWJF and the UWPHI are seeing across the nation. As housing costs have outpaced local incomes, many families not only struggle to acquire and maintain adequate shelter, but also face difficult trade-offs in meeting other basic needs. Did you know that across counties increases in the share of households that are severely housing cost burdened are linked to more children in poverty and more people facing food insecurity? New measures this year that help to illustrate how counties are fairing including Severe Housing Cost Burden, Homeownership, and Life Expectancy.
A new ranked measure included this year is Flu Vaccinations. In addition, an updated data source for the ranked measures of Preventable Hospital Stays and Mammography Screening are being used.
“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” said Pettit. For example, Genesee County has an improved Clinical Care ranking, scoring 40 this year as compared to 57 out of 62 counties five years ago. This improvement can be attributed to a lower uninsured population (under age 65) than the NYS average, as well as an increasing number of mental health providers available although still far behind the state average. A similar trend can be found in Orleans County in regards to these two ranked measures. Additional strengths in Genesee County include a lower percentage of children living in poverty, which is 15% as compared to the state average of 20%. As well, the high school graduation rate in Genesee County (91%) and Orleans County (89%) in 2019 is higher than the state average of 82%. The rankings of Social Associations, Severe Housing Problems, and Long Commute-Driving Alone are also fairing well in both counties compared to the NYS averages.
Orleans County has also improved in the Physical Environment and Health Factors rankings, by 11 points (21 out of 62) and 2 points (54 out of 62) compared to 2018. Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with adult smoking (Genesee – 20% / Orleans – 22%), adult obesity (Genesee – 35% / Orleans – 36%), physical inactivity (Genesee –29% / Orleans – 31%), access to exercise opportunities (Genesee – 61% / Orleans – 70%), driving alone to work (Genesee – 84% / Orleans – 80%), and access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers.
Orleans County is also ranked as having a higher percentage of children living in poverty (24%) as compared to the state average mentioned earlier.
The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners, Genesee and Orleans counties have a number of initiatives to expand health opportunities for residents, including providing the National Diabetes Prevention Program (Prevent T2), a lifestyle change program to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes; the Get Fit! Program, an 8-week family-friendly physical activity and nutrition focused program; a tri-county Opioid Task Force; decrease smoking/nicotine usage through referrals and increase cancer screenings. “The Rankings data will be used in conjunction with additional local sources, such as the Community Health Assessment (CHA) Surveys and Community Conversations that are being collected and occurring now, to inform the 2019-2024 Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW) Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which will be submitted to the NYS Department of Health this December, stated Pettit.
The CHA survey is available online in English and Spanish until March 31, 2019. Paper copies are also available at various locations in each county. The survey is anonymous and only takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the health of the person taking it. If you are younger than 18, be sure to receive permission to take the survey from your parent(s) or guardian(s).
To access the GOW CHA survey visit.
The GOW Health Departments are also seeking to schedule Community Conversations with willing groups to learn what they feel are the greatest health concerns or issues in their community and thoughts on how they can be improved. Responses from the confidential surveys and conversations will help identify services that are working, need improving, or to be created. The more members of the public who participate, the larger and stronger the “building block” of these plans will be!
To participate in a community conversation, obtain hard copies of the survey, or have any questions about the County Health Rankings please contact your local health department.