Pierce populace smoking and drinking less, exercising more

Still 24th out of 39 counties in Washington, there's no change for Pierce County in the latest checkup of how its overall health is rated.
The 2017 County Health Rankings do, however, show slightly lower rates of adult smoking and drinking, improvements in rates of physical activity and a decreasing level of teen births, uninsured and unemployed residents is good news.
The information, published annually by countyhealthrankings.org, is focused on how long people live and how healthy they feel. While Pierce County hasn’t seen any dramatic improvement in it overall health rankings, the community does appear to be tackling long-standing health challenges, according to local health authorities.
“The improvements in some health areas give us hope" that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and "many community partners who are focused on health are moving the needle in the right direction,” said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, the department's director of health.
In the 2017 rankings, Pierce County is below the state average improving slightly in adult smoking and obesity, physical activity, excessive drinking, traffic deaths attributed to alcohol-impaired driving, teen births, rates of people without health insurance, and unemployment.
Pierce is ahead of the state average in access to exercise and in high school graduates. On the other end of the scale, the county is doing worse than the rest of Washington in premature deaths, preventable hospital stays, diabetes monitoring, sexually transmitted diseases, access to primary-care physicians, non-carpool or mass-transit commuting to work, and violent crime.
“The health areas with room for improvement are similar to past years,” said Chen. “The way to improve health is to focus on the social, economic and environmental factors that affect health.
"We and our partners are working on this together. We have concrete strategies," he added.
Those strategies rely on the Health Department’s Health Equity Report, which Chen said explores social, economic and environmental factors in Pierce County. The report offers a response to many of the “why” questions the statewide health rankings may provoke, and the local report also maps the county’s health and what to do to improve it, he said.
“We have a long way to go to ensure that all of our residents can experience good health outcomes, regardless of where they live, learn, work or play,” said Chen. “Improving our community’s health takes all of us working together."
He predicted "positive results in a year or two."
The County Health Rankings measure the health of nearly every county in the United States. Published online at www.countyhealthrankings.org, the ratings help counties understand what influences how healthy their residents are and how long they will live.
The rankings are based on a variety of measures that affect health, such as:
• High school graduation rates.
• Access to healthy food.
• Rates of smoking, obesity, and teenagers giving birth.
The rankings are unique in their ability to measure the overall health of each county in all 50 states, according to officials. The annual study is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and healthcare in the United States. Additional information is available at www.rwjf.org.


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