Mixed results for PA's County Health Rankings

Annual survey released on Wednesday

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - Did you realize your zip code can be a good indicator of your health? A new report compares the well-being of nearly every county in the United States. The study reveals that good doctors aren't the only important health indicator. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller reviewed the study ranking our local counties and looked at what's being done to improve the scores.

Where you live can make a big difference on how well and how long you live. That's the underlying conclusion of this year's County Health Rankings. The collaborative study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute evaluates much more than just access to quality health care. "You know, we certainly recognize that there are a lot of factors that weigh in on the health of the population," said Geisinger Physician Richard Martin, MD.

Serving as director of value based care in Geisinger's Population Health Department, Dr. Martin sees how health gaps can exist as outlined in the county study that considers more than 30 health influences. "Some of it is cultural. Some of it is genetic. Some of it is learned behavior."

Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, Centre County placed 2nd while Pike and Northampton Counties ranked 12th and 13th respectively. Others fared poorly like Luzerne and Susquehanna ranking 60th and 61st. 

"What is it that's pulling together in northeastern Pennsylvania that's contributing to those scores?," said Brian Ebersole who is senior director of Geisinger's Springboard Health Scranton. Launched in 2016, the Scranton-based initiative focuses on preventative care, behavioral health and economic growth which are all key components of the county health rankings report. "Picking healthy food is the first initiative," said Mr. Ebersole.

Besides addressing the supply of nutritious, affordable food to the community, he'd like to see more emphasis on issues like childhood poverty, exercise opportunities and various social and economic factors. The solution, Mr. Ebersole says, is a collaborative effort. "It's not okay to continue to do the same things we've done for years. We constantly have to continue to innovate." Dr. Martin added, "It's going to be small at first and will have to grow but over a few years there's great opportunity."

This marked the ninth year for the County Health Rankings.

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