June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina County is ranked third healthiest in state

Medina County is healthier than it was last year — at least the numbers say so.

The county moved up one spot on the list of Ohio’s healthiest counties based on “health outcomes.” It compares statistics like premature death and low birth weight.

The “health outcomes” is one of two rankings published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Medina County remained at fourth place on the institute’s other ranking, which looks at “health factors,” such as the number of primary care doctors per capita, high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods and the number of adults who smoke.

Kristen Hildreth, director of health promotion at the Medina County Health Department, said her agency welcomes the good news. However, she said they’re using it as a talking point rather than as a trophy.

“It certainly tells us things. It’s always a good starting point for us and it’s always a good thing to get people talking,” she said.

She pointed out that the data doesn’t depict the entire situation.

“It’s based on national data, so they compare apples to apples. There’s only certain data that’s available at the national level,” she said.

For example, part of the “health behaviors” ranking is based on the physical environment, including factors like access to healthy foods and recreational facilities. Medina County made a leap in that category — from 63 in the state in 2010 to 17th in the current ranking.

Hildreth pointed out the category shows healthy food outlets like farmers markets and recreational facilities are definitely available within the county, but it doesn’t show whether people are actually using them.

“That’s the question: Are they or aren’t they? I don’t know, but we have to figure that out,” she said.

The Health Department will conduct a community meeting 10 a.m. May 5 at the department, 4800 Ledgewood Drive in Medina Township. Representatives from various agencies will aim to fill any holes left by the data. Hildreth said the community health assessment meeting will take a deeper look at the numbers and figure out how to encourage healthy activities throughout the county.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.