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County health rankings released

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A new study sheds light on the health of people living within the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.

While Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Mercer counties didn't come in last, they did all fall closer to the bottom of the list rather than the top of it.

Health rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin don't paint the prettiest of pictures for people living in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.

According to the statistics, Mercer County ranks 51st out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania. In Ohio, Columbiana County ranks 50th out of 88 counties, Trumbull County ranks 71st and Mahoning County comes in at number 75.

"It is a relative number. I think we already recognize where our strengths and weaknesses lie in the community. So, I don't take it as an, 'Oh boy we are number 75 out of 88,'" said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney.

The study looked at things like access to quality health care, which Mahoning and Mercer counties ranked fairly well in, access to recreational facilities and healthy foods, things all four counties ranked poorly in, and a person's health behaviors such as smoking, physical activity and obesity.

However, social and economic factors, like unemployment and children living in poverty, had the most weight in the study which could explain the overall low rankings.

"These are not areas of change that happen quickly. This isn't something that you can say one year you are going to be 75 and the next year you are going to be 25," Sweeney said.

Sweeney says it takes people making healthier decisions and organizations teaming up together to create a healthier community.

"We've got a large group working on a project called pioneering healthy communities and the entire focus of that is changing what we call big "P", big policies, environmental policies, school policies, around increasing access to physical activity and increasing access to healthy foods for children. If you can start to move that, we will see a change in this over time," Sweeney said.

In Ohio, Geauga County ranked number one and in Pennsylvania, it was Chester County which is near Philadelphia.

You can view the full report here.



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