Huntington County in top third in state ranking for citizens’ health


Parkview Huntington Family YMCA members are busy on Thursday afternoon, March 21, working out on the facility’s machines. Photo by Lauren M. Wilson.

Huntington County is listed in the top third of a compilation of the healthiest counties in Indiana.

The data was released Wednesday, March 20, by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The annual report ranks the health of all 92 Indiana counties - and Huntington placed at 26 on the list.
The healthiest counties in Indiana, the study says, are Hendricks, Hamilton and Boone.

The unhealthiest are Fayette, Crawford and Scott.

The study measures a number of factors that affect health, such as graduation rates, obesity, smoking and family and social support.

Although Huntington ranked fairly high on the list of healthy counties, there is room for improvement.

The county earned a very low score in the rankings for healthy behaviors - ranked at 81 out of 92 counties in the state.

According to the report, 28 percent of adults in Huntington smoke, above the national benchmark of 13 percent.

Thirty-five percent of adults in Huntington County are obese, a number that is also above the national benchmark, this one by 10 percentage points.

This is followed by a number that is also 10 percentage points above the national benchmark - 31 percent of Huntington County residents are physically inactive.
These numbers aren't the only unhealthy behaviors reported in Huntington.

Twenty percent of the county's residents report excessive drinking, 13 percentage points above the national benchmark.

The county also has higher-than-average numbers in motor vehicle crash deaths, sexually transmitted diseases and teen births.

So, what is Huntington doing to stay healthy?

The Huntington County Health & Wellness Coalition is a force that works with local companies to promote healthy living.

Parkview Health funds the coalition, through a grant provided by the Parkview Community Health Improvement Foundation, and The United Way of Huntington County facilitates the coalition.

Jenna Strick of the United Way says many local organizations are involved in the coalition, including the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, the YWCA, the Youth Services Bureau, the Purdue Extension office, Huntington County Community School Corporation, Parkview Huntington Hospital, the Boys & Girls Club of Huntington and Huntington University.

Strick says the coalition is "very active throughout the entire year."

On Tuesday, March 26, the coalition will host its annual fourth grade health fair at Huntington University.
The event is held at the university's fieldhouse and every fourth-grader in Huntington County will attend.

Strick says the event provides eight to 10 stations that cover topics from healthy eating to physical activity, taking care of teeth, bicycle safety and healthy body image.

"It's a great mix of presenters that provide a vast array of health and wellness topics," she notes.

Other programs held for school-aged children include Power Club, held at Crestview and Riverview middle schools as an after-school program that promotes health and wellness. It works in conjunction with the Purdue Extension office's program "Cooking with Love" to teach the students how to prepare healthy foods.

Strick says the recipes are, "really easy for kids to make ... something that they can go home and snack on after school."

The Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, Youth Services Bureau and YWCA also participate in Power Club.

In elementary schools, the coalition has implemented "Professor Popcorn" to teach the students curriculum surrounding "My Plate" - formerly known as the food pyramid.

Strick says the professor answers questions such as, "What is a grain?"

All area third grade students also have the opportunity to visit the YMCA and progress their swim techniques, says Strick.

For adults, the coalition offers "Cooking with Love" classes and a Community Garden, located on Viking Lane. Both programs are sponsored by The Purdue Extension Office.

The cooking classes meet six times each month, and are held in Huntington, Warren and Mt. Etna. One class per month is offered in Spanish.

Purdue Extension's Family Nutrition Program has collaborated with Love INC and A lo Nuestro to teach adults how to prepare low sugar, low fat and low sodium meals. Strick says the goal of the program is to provide Huntington residents with "every day tips that can be put to use in their own homes."

The Community Garden is maintained by the Purdue Extension office and is open to the community during the growing season on Mondays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

For more information about "Cooking with Love" or the Community Garden, visit www3.ag.purdue.edu/counties/huntington/Pages/FoodHealth.aspx.

Parkview Huntington Hopsital is also a major player in keeping Huntington healthy.

Megan Bobay, a registered dietitian, who works at the hospital is involved with the coalition and says there are many initiatives in the community to spread awareness about healthy living.

Bobay says the Parkview Live campaign reaches out to every student in Huntington County to teach the eight steps towards healthy living.

The steps are:

• Always eat breakfast and make it healthy.

• Eat more fruits and veggies.

• Limit or eliminate sweetened drinks (less than 12 oz per week).

• Limit screen time (television, video games, Internet).

• Increase physical activity.

• Eat meals together as a family sitting down.

• Be positive about food.

• Don't criticize weight.

Bobay says they also provide a food tracker and a healthy habits tracker.

Parkview Huntington Hospital will also present Healthy Steps on April 9 from 6-10 a.m.

The event is open to the public and will offer blood work (fees based on the service provided) a healthy morning snack, free health screenings and Bobay says she will be present at the fair talking about healthy habits.

Bobay says she is also available for nutrition consults at the hospital by appointment.

In conjunction with the fourth annual County Health Rankings report issued last week, the Indiana State Department of Health launched the Indiana INdicators website in 2012 as a free data resource intended to help Indiana communities perform community health plans.

The web address is www.IndianaIndicators.org.