YOUNGSTOWN — Local health officials are educating the public on ways to improve the health and wellness of Mahoning County, which ranks among the bottom 25 percent of counties in Ohio for overall health.
A community health improvement plan has been created to set priorities, be a resource guide and to develop and implement projects, programs and policies to address the issues.
In 2020, Mahoning County was No. 71 among Ohio’s 88 counties for overall health outcomes, according to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. Trumbull County was No. 76. The 2021 data will be released soon.
Officials with the Mahoning County CHA / CHIP (Community Health Assessment and Planning) Team have been conducting assessments since 2011 to measure the status of community health. The most recent Mahoning County assessment included a written survey of adults and adolescents within the county, allowing the county to compare their health assessment data to national, state and local health trends.
The following priorities were selected in Mahoning County:
l Improving mental health status and reducing substance abuse and addiction;
l Reducing chronic disease;
∫ Improving maternal and infant health;
∫ Improving the economic and social issues impeding health; other
∫ Improving health equity.
Officials said over the next three years, strategies and action steps will be implemented with the intent to improve population health and well-being and create lasting, sustainable change.
Officials noted health and wellness is not only the absence of disease, but it is a state of physical, social and emotional well-being that occurs when the environment in which an individual lives, works and plays provides sufficient support and opportunities for good health.
HEALTHY EATING / ACTIVE LIVING
Sarah Lowry, director of Healthy Community Partnerships for Mahoning and Trumbull counties, said the goal is to address and improve the health rankings in both counties by looking at different health factors, including length and quality of life, and what chronic diseases people face.
“We have a focus on ‘Healthy Eating. Active Living.’ One area of focus will be to remove any barriers to prevent people from eating healthy and being physically active. Being able to eat healthy and being physically active are key to mental and physical well-being,” Lowry said.
She said food access for all residents is important — both the physical location where people can obtain healthy foods and affordability.
Farmers markets have proven to be one opportunity for this. Another is reaching out to local small convenient and grocery store owners to offer healthy produce and other foods, she said.
She said groups like ACTION are partners working to have mobile markets in Youngstown. There is also SNAP eligibility to be able to afford healthy foods with residents being provided vouchers.
“We will work with local organizations so they can access food by walking, biking and using public transportation,” she said.
Lowry said there is an effort to incorporate physical activity into the daily routines of people as well as incorporating walking at community events like “Walk Youngstown,” a campaign encouraging people to walk during the day.
“With the weather getting warmer, we want to encourage people to walk in their neighborhoods. We want to look at programs and events to provide opportunities for people to be outside and active in their everyday routines. We want people to feel safe in parks and green space areas for walking,” Lowry said.
There are also plans for biking events to encourage people to bike in parks and other areas.
HEALTH RANKING PRIORITIES
Tracy Styka, community health education specialist for Mahoning County Public Health, said the agency has been working on the five priority areas.
Styka said during 2010 and 2011, the public health agency, in collaboration with more than 30 community partners, conducted a community health assessment and developed a tri-county community health improvement plan to guide the region in the implementation of strategies to improve the health status of local residents.
“We focus on improving quality of life for people. We look at what people are experiencing in their neighborhoods and what challenges and barriers they may face, such as do they have transportation to get to healthy food, health care and doctors’ offices. There is also concern of people being able to afford the healthy food,” Lowry said.
Lowry said she has seen the county’s health rankings and said there are areas that need improvement.
Data is being collected by a survey of the public to update a community health assessment strategic plan to improve health outcomes.
Residents of Mahoning and Trumbull counties can help the Valley become healthier by completing the survey at www.mahoningtrumbullhealthsurvey.com. Results will help local health departments and partners identify the top priorities to focus on over the next three years.
BY THE NUMBERS | Mahoning County’s health rankings
Mahoning County ranked No. 71 among Ohio’s 88 counties in the 2020 health rankings report. Details:
• Population – 228,683
• Premature deaths – 9,300
• Poor or fair health – 20 percent
• Life expectancy – 76.4 years
• Child mortality – 60
• Infant mortality – 8
• Adult smoking – 23 percent
• Adult obesity – 33 percent
• Physical inactivity – 32 percent
• Access to exercise opportunities – 81 percent
• Excessive drinking – 17 percent
• Food insecurity – 15 percent
• Limited access to healthy foods – 11 percent
• Drug overdose deaths – 48
• Motor vehicle crash deaths – 9
• Primary care physicians – 960:1
• Dentists – 1,390:1
• Mental health providers – 270:1
• Unemployment – 5.7 percent
• Children in poverty – 27 percent
• Children in single-parent households –
• Violent crimes – 279
• Median household income – $48,000
• Children eligible for free / reduced lunches – 40 percent
• Driving alone to work – 85 percent
• Long commute driving alone – 23 percent
SOURCE: County Health Rankings