Rankings put Trumbull, Mahoning among least healthy counties

Trumbull County’s overall health is the worst it has been in the past five years and ranks 76th out of the state’s 88 counties, according to the annual findings of a national program released Wednesday. That’s down from 71st last year, and 66th the year before.

Conversely, Mahoning County’s rank was up – but only to the number 73 slot. It ranked 75th the previous two years.

The rankings are based on a combination of various county statistics, from air pollution to teenage pregnancy rates and medical insurance coverage. Together, these and other factors determine the quality of life and mortality rates within each county.

This year’s national study found people living in the least-healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties.

In Trumbull, with 20 percent of the county living with fair to poor health, about 8.5 percent of residents are expected to die before age 75.

While the local numbers may be bleak, the goal of the rankings is meant to be positive. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have headed the study for the past five years with the aim to provide insight on where communities can implement changes to improve the health of their residents.

“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings – where we live, learn, work and play,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, director of the County Health Rankings. “The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policy-makers, public health, parents and others to work together for better health.”

The program groups 29 factors into four categories – health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment and social and economic factors – to determine the quality of life and mortality rates within each county. Each category is then weighted to derive the overall ranking.

Of the four categories, Trumbull does the best in clinical care, which determines 20 percent of the county’s rank. This is because the county’s ratio of dentists and primary care physicals is good compared to the state average. Additionally, only 15 percent of the county is uninsured.

Trumbull does the worst in the physical environment category, where it ranks 75 out of 88. This category accounts for 10 percent of the overall ranking.

Fourteen percent of households in the county deal with what the study calls “severe housing problems.” This means they have one or more of the following: overcrowding; high housing costs; or lack of kitchen or plumbing.

Much of the population (87 percent) commute to work alone, contributing to air pollution.

That, of course, is for those who have jobs to drive to – the unemployment rate for the county is at 8.1 percent, down from 9.6 percent last year.

Among the other social and economic factors that determine 40 percent of the county’s rank are high school graduation (84 percent) and children living in poverty (30 percent).

The final category of health behaviors counts for 30 percent of the total rank. Trumbull county residents have several vices to overcome here. A quarter of adults in the county smoke, while one third are considered obese.

In addition, 19 percent reported heavy drinking habits, proportional to the fact that 44 percent of driving death involved being impaired by alcohol.

Together, all of these factors place Trumbull County at slot 76. Since the rankings inception in 2010, Trumbull has struggled to reach beyond the bottom tier of counties. Last year, Trumbull ranked 71st, and the year’s prior it flip-flopped between there and 66.

On the other side of the spectrum, Geauga County ranks healthiest in Ohio, accompanied by Putnam, Delaware, Medina and Mercer.

Scioto County was the least healthy in the state.

“The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO.

More statistics on the county’s health can be seen at countyhealthrankings.org.