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April 4, 2012

County ranks low on 'health outcomes' list

LOCKPORT — Niagara County residents’ overall health has slipped a bit, according to an annual statewide health ranking report.

Among all counties in the state, Niagara ranked 59th of 62 in terms of health “outcomes,” according to the third annual County Health Rankings Project Report, released Tuesday by the state health department.

Health outcomes are measures of mortality and morbidity, the degree to which people feel well, or not, physically and mentally

In the 2011 statewide ranking of health outcomes, Niagara County slipped to 59th place from 57th place in 2010. Rates of adult obesity and child poverty increased by several percentage points each.

According to the 2011 report, 29 percent of adult residents are obese, up from 27 percent in 2010 and compared to 25 percent of adults statewide. Twenty percent of children are living in poverty, up from 17 percent in 2010 and compared to 22 percent of children statewide.

The annual report measures 25 health factors including obesity and poverty that play some role in driving residents’ health outcomes; the factors include various bad habits, rates of access to physicians/medical care, socioeconomic and environmental quality indicators.

The 2011 report contains no surprises for Niagara County Public Health, deputy director Victoria Pearson said Tuesday. Percentages of Niagara County adult residents who smoke and/or are obese have stayed roughly the same in the past three annual reports. These are still Niagara’s obvious trouble areas, she said.

“Avoiding smoking, getting exercise, eating right: That’s what the rankings are showing, the basics; that seems to be where we really need to work,” Pearson said. “And a lot of that is motivating people to want to do it.”

Public health officials are more concerned with the small print in the annual report than the county’s rank compared with others. According to Pearson, many of the statistics in the report are averages compiled from up to six years worth of data, the newest of which was collected in 2010.

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