Laziness is no excuse for an unhealthy life

Sadly, Trumbull and Mahoning counties are among the least healthy in Ohio.

That’s according to a recent national study that analyzed socioeconomic and environmental factors, quality and length of life, health behaviors and clinical care and more.

Specifically, Trumbull County ranked 65th and Mahoning County ranked 75th out of Ohio’s 88 counties in overall health, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute study.

The results are alarming to local health advocates, and they should be alarming to all of us.

Among the categories, Trumbull County ranked its highest — 54th out of 88 counties — in the health behaviors category, which reviewed smoking, alcohol usage, obesity, access to healthy foods and exercise opportunities.

But the county ranked near the bottom, 83rd of 88 counties, in the study’s analysis of physical environment, which analyzed air pollution, water quality, housing problems and commutes to work. Mahoning County ranked even worse, 86th, in that category.

Mahoning County’s highest rank — 13th — came in the clinical care category, which analyzed things like community’s access to health care and availability of health clinics.

Of course, unhealthy lifestyles lead to high health-care costs.

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that analyzes America’s long-term fiscal challenges, the U.S. spends significantly more on health care than any other developed nation. Studies show that in 2016, for example, the U.S. spent about $9,024 per capita on health care. The next closest was Switzerland, at $6,787. Canada spent $4,506 per person.

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, operated by the Centers for Disease Control, indicates that more than 75 percent of America’s health-care spending is for people with chronic conditions that lead to preventable death or disability, along with diminished quality of life.

Local studies have offered insight into how we view healthy living.

For instance, 29 percent of Trumbull County residents are physically inactive despite 84 percent having access to exercise opportunities such as proximity to parks and recreational facilities. That’s higher than the state average of 83 percent.

Why? Surveys and personal interviews tell us some people are afraid to go to bike paths; some can’t afford a bike; and some say they don’t have time. Perhaps the most disappointing reason is that some say they’re just lazy.

The good news is organizations, foundations and even local government entities are working to reverse the trend. The Trumbull County Health Department is working to educate residents and boost bike path usage.

Other initiatives are working to improve health in lower-income areas including partnering with inner-city community centers like Trumbull Family Fitness to promote physical activity, increasing healthy school lunch options and after-school healthy snack programs and building smoke-free multi-unit housing.

Efforts are planned to improve access to healthy food, enabling local farmers markets to accept Women, Infants and Children (WIC) vouchers.

The Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley is trying to kick-start better health by changing people’s ways of thinking. We know this won’t happen overnight, but we hope it’s a first step.

Communities like Howland and Warren also are making an effort. Both were recognized recently with Healthy Living Community Awards for promoting programs and activities to keep residents active and well. Presented through the Creating Healthy Communities Program, the award is calculated on points accumulated in several categories of physical activity, health and wellness.

These types of programs can only grow with community support, recognition and the energy of its volunteers.

Whatever the means, healthy living is crucial for our area and our future. And laziness is no excuse.