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Summit Health releases report on Franklin County's health

April 18, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Franklin County residents are losing ground on some very important health-related issues, according to a study released by Summit Health Thursday.

Summit Health, in cooperation with the Penn State Institute of State and Regional Affairs, released the results of its 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) of Franklin County and Shippensburg, Pa., at Green Grove Gardens near Greencastle.

After wading through a sea of data over the course of a year, Summit’s 30-member advisory group pinpointed four priorities — education, nutrition, access to health care and mental health.

Data was collected between September and October last year from 831 phone interviews (51.5 percent from the Chambersburg Hospital service area and 48.5 percent from the Waynesboro Hospital service area).

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The Body Mass Indexes of survey respondents revealed the obesity rates rose from approximately 33 percent in 2008 to 36.5 percent in 2012.

Good general health dropped from approximately 39 percent from the group of respondents in 2008 to 30 percent in 2012.

The advisory group did not give reasons for the declines when presenting the findings.

The group was comprised of key leaders from local school districts, state and county agencies, local nonprofit groups, faith-based groups, higher education and local health care.

Norm Epstein, president and chief executive officer of Summit Health, said the health of Franklin County is everyone’s responsibility.

“We, everybody in this room, suddenly becomes responsible for our entire population’s health,” he said.

While Epstein said the county has made progress since Summit’s 2008 Community Health Needs Assessment, more needs to be done.

He referred to a recent Gallup poll that ranked the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest and lowest concentration of obese residents in 2012. The Hagerstown-Martinsburg, W.Va., metropolitan area ranked No. 5 on the list of highest concentration of obese residents.

“They are close enough that it’s our issue as well,” Epstein said.

Michael Behney, director of the Penn State Institute of State and Regional Affairs and instructor in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State’s campus in Harrisburg, presented key findings from the 2012 CHNA report.

“The number of people in Franklin County who have health insurance has decreased consistently since 1996, when it stood at almost 95 percent,” he said.

Now, about 87 percent of Franklin County residents (responding to the survey) have health insurance.

Not surprisingly, younger adults, those with less than a high school diploma and households with lower income were found to be less likely to have insurance, Behney said.

A related indicator found that Franklin County has fewer primary-care physicians per 100,000 population than the state or nation.

Recent survey data indicates that almost 10 percent of the respondents said they had some form of cancer at some point in their lives.

Cases of breast cancer are lower in the county than in the state and has generally been on the decline.
Diabetes-related deaths are much higher than the statewide rate and have been increasing since 2009, Behney said.

There also is concern in the rise of obesity in children and teens in the county, he said.

“We’re at a critical juncture,” said Carrie Gray, director for grants and operations management for the Franklin County Commissioners. “It is imperative that we reach out and broaden our efforts.”

Now that the findings have been released, it’s time to engage more people in the community to take the four priorities — education, access to health care, nutrition and mental health — and find a way to make changes, she said.

“It really takes the whole community to make a difference,” said Barbara Constable, Summit Health’s vice president of community relations.

County agencies and organizations can benefit from current data when applying for grants, hospital officials said.

“What was unique about this assessment was involving the community leaders and really reaching out,” Constable said. “Hopefully, that means we can have a greater impact.”

Summit Health officials said the survey results will be published today at www.summithealth.org.

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