Smoking and obesity harm the health of Pima County

Residents of six Arizona counties have better overall health than people living in Pima County, according to a new study.

The county’s health rankings were released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. They compare Arizona counties to each other in a national study.

The ranking examines more than 90 factors influencing health, including education, housing, employment, transportation, access to medical care, and more.

Pima County fell from 6th place in 2022, behind Maricopa, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yuma, Yavapai and Greenlee counties for 2023.

Pima also ranked 7th for health outcomes, which indicate how long people live in a community on average and how many people experience physical and mental health in a community while they are alive.

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Drivers of Pima County’s overall rankings include its rates of obesity, smoking, and sexually transmitted infections. “Serious housing problems” – including overcrowding, high costs and a lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities – also contributed to the score.

In Pima County, other risk factors that affect the health of residents include:

Eighteen percent of residents experience at least one type of serious housing problem, compared to 17% in the state and UST. Twenty percent of children live in poverty, compared to 18% in Arizona and 17% in the United States. On average, per student spending between school districts was $1,712 less than the estimated amount needed to help students achieve average US test scores.

Data shows Pima County ranked 4th in the state in overall health from 2018 to 2020, then dropped to sixth in 2021.

“Many factors contribute to health rankings among Arizona counties, but when you sum them all up, they come down to social connectedness, income inequality, access to quality education, and to Affordable Housing: The Social Determinants of Health,” Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said in a press release. “Health departments can influence some of these things, but the big policy levers rest with the state legislature and other elected officials and we call on them to use this data to inform their policy decisions.”

FILE – This file photo from April 3, 2018 shows a close-up of a beam scale in New York.

Patrick Sison, AP Photo

The report suggests several priorities for Pima County:

For the first time, this year’s rankings measured civic infrastructure and participation in counties, including access to parks, school funding adequacy, broadband, voter turnout and self-reported turnout. in the census.

The final report indicates that counties with well-funded civic infrastructure have higher rates of high school completion, higher household incomes, less income inequality, and lower rates of poor children and poor children. uninsured adults. In these communities, people also tend to live longer.

“Our findings reveal that people and places thrive when all residents have the opportunity to participate in their communities,” said Sheri Johnson, senior researcher for County Health Rankings and Roadmaps and director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, in a press release.

Dr. Daniel Derksen, associate vice president for health equity and outreach at the University of Arizona, said the top-ranking Arizona counties are those he would expect, in taking into account the key social determinants that affect health outcomes,

The social determinants of health are conditions in the environments where people are born, live and age that affect a wide range of health outcomes and risks, functioning and quality of life.

The CDC has grouped these determinants into five areas: economic stability; access and quality of education; access and quality of health care; neighborhood and built environment; and social and community context

Very rural areas where the population tends to be older and have more chronic conditions and also lower incomes have some of the biggest challenges to overcome, Derksen said.

“By addressing the underlying determinants of health, we can improve outcomes and reduce the disparities we observed in Arizona,” Derksen said. “But we haven’t made significant progress in some areas.”

Navajo and Apache counties, which have lower incomes and lack clean water, reliable transportation and easy access to health services, ended up at the bottom of the state rankings, which , according to Derksen, is not surprising given the conditions.

The CDC has also reported a decrease in life expectancy in certain populations, including Native American and Hispanic populations, which is also factored into the county’s health rankings.

Derksen said the shortage of health workers, while concerning in itself, is having a disproportionate impact on rural and underserved communities, which struggle to recruit and retain health workers.

“Arizona’s population has grown so rapidly in the counties that we must have the capacity to train enough health professionals and prepare them to practice in the areas most needed: rural and underserved communities. “, said Derksen. “Pima is more metropolitan around the Tucson area and also has very rural components. Some county subdivisions are rural and tend to have issues accessing care.”

Derksen said he finds the report valuable in that it provides action items and things counties and governments can do to improve outcomes.

“It’s not just the data that shows how bad things are,” he said. “It also has strategies for what communities can do to improve health outcomes. This is an important public safety message – there are tangible things we can do to improve health outcomes.”

The ranking suggests various ways to strengthen civic health, including investing in libraries, community centers and other public spaces to encourage in-person connections; developing civic knowledge and skills through youth leadership programs and implementing voter registration and voter participation initiatives to increase representation in the democratic process.

The study noted Pima County’s strengths, including ranking second in the state in health factors — things people can change to improve residents’ length and quality of life. Other highlights include Pima County’s ranking among the top four counties in the state for clinical care, as well as health behaviors.

Pima County saw improvements over previous years in many areas, including teen births, high school and college completion, access to primary care and mental health providers, hospital stays preventable and mammograms.

Get a roundup of solutions reports from the Arizona Daily Star at Video by Caitlin Schmidt/Arizona Daily Star.

Contact star reporter Caitlin Schmidt at 573-4191 or [email protected].

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