Franklin County is Maineâ€™s Healthiest County
Local initiatives that have had an impact
February 18, 2010
Franklin County is Maine’s healthiest county according to the County Health Rankings, the first set of reports to rank the overall health of every county in all 50 states. The report was recently released by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The report ranks each county within a state on health outcomes: how healthy people are and how long they live. They also are ranked on key health factors that influence health such as: smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers, rates of high school graduation, and rates of violent crime, among others.
Franklin County was rated the highest in Maine in terms of overall health, despite being ranked seventh in terms of health factors: health behaviors, access and quality of clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. The discrepancy may be due to the efforts of the Healthy Community Coalition, which has been active for more than 20 years according to Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “The effectiveness of that effort helped inspire the creation of a coalition-based public health system in Maine,” she said.
Franklin County’s lowest health factor ranking came under the category of social and economic factors—11th of 16 counties. Data used to obtain the ranking included: high school graduation rates; college degrees; unemployment; children in poverty; income inequality; single-parent households; inadequate social support; and rates of violent crime.
According to Dr. Burgess Record, who along with his wife Sandra and Dr. Cameron Bopp originated the Healthy Community Coalition, “Franklin County was not always so healthy. In the 1960s, Franklin County had worse than average death rates overall, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
Then starting in the 1970s, an interconnected series of health-related innovations involving then Rural Health Associates, Franklin Cardiovascular Health Program, and Healthy Community Coalition; and later Franklin Health Access and ScoreHealth took place. “Partnerships among Franklin Memorial Hospital, the University Of Maine at Farmington, regional school systems, employers, and various social service organizations helped improve health status so that by the mid-1990s Franklin led the way in preventable deaths and preventable hospitalizations. The trick has always been—and is now—how to sustain effective interventions in the face of economic insecurity. Fortunately for residents of West Central Maine, the Franklin Community Health Network has long regarded the overall health of the entire region as its mandate and responsibility,” he added.
Heather Davis, executive director of the Healthy Community Coalition agrees, “Recognition of the work it has taken to become Maine’s healthiest county is vital. We know social and economic factors such as children living in poverty, inadequate social supports, and unemployment are big contributors to many of the health behaviors we continue to see every day including smoking, alcohol abuse, and many stress-related health conditions. As we celebrate this recognition, it is important to note that continued community-wide collaborative efforts and program funding is necessary to offer creative and effective solutions to support healthier community members.”
“All of us—health care providers, government and business leaders, educators, and others—must play a role in making our communities healthier,” said Rebecca Ryder, Franklin Community Health Network president/CEO. “Health promotion initiatives come in many different forms; our health network and its affiliates support initiatives, programs, and policies that help all of us live longer, healthier lives.”
The online Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org. Reports include snapshots of U.S. counties with a color-coded map that compares each county’s overall health with other counties in each of the 50 states. Researchers used the latest data available for each county, ranging from 2000 to 2008, to develop the Rankings.
Franklin Community Health Network is an independent community health care network that includes Franklin Memorial Hospital, Franklin Health, Evergreen Behavioral Services, NorthStar, and the Healthy Community Coalition. FCHN has been the recipient of numerous national awards for innovation, high quality care, and partnering with the community and other local organizations to improve health.
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