Cedar Co. health in top third
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · April 05, 2013

According to a new report, residents of Cedar County and West Branch are healthier than residents in all of the counties surrounding it except Johnson County and the Iowa City/Coralville area.

Out of 99 Iowa counties, the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report puts Cedar County No. 28 in overall health, behind No. 13 Johnson County and ahead of No. 30 Linn County (Cedar Rapids), No. 60 Scott County (Davenport), No. 66 Muscatine County (West Liberty) and No. 86 Clinton County.

The county’s ranking, however, has been on the decline.

In 2010, Cedar County ranked No. 13, in 2011 it dropped to No. 16, and in 2012 it fell to No. 25.

According to Cedar County Public Health department, residents did not get less healthy, but the county fell behind many other counties in the race to improve resident health.

The CCPH, reviewing the subcategories of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute report, found Cedar County ranks 32nd in morbidity, 24th in mortality, and 18th in health factors out of Iowa’s 99 counties.

In a section called “Health Outcomes” — measuring the result of residents’ lifestyles — the report determined that anyone who dies before age 75 lost years of potential life.

The researchers calculated that, in a population of 100,000 people dying at the same average age as Cedar County residents, they would have lost 5,428 years of potential life. Cedar County has about 18,400 residents, so the “actual” potential lost life amounts to just under 1,000 years. Using that 100,000 population as a point of reference, Iowa as a whole averages 5,971 years of potential lost life.

Surrounding counties varied greatly in mortality and premature death: 13th — Johnson County (4,981 years lost); 15th — Linn County (4,861 years lost); 52nd — Muscatine (6,125 years lost); 61st — Scott (6,442 years lost); 73rd — Clinton (6,623 years lost). Des Moines, in Polk County, ranked 58th (6,303 years lost).

Cedar County’s mortality and premature death ranking worsened for three years — 21st in 2010, 22nd in 2011, 30th in 2012, 24th in 2013 — before dropping this year, but that is only in comparison to other counties.

In each of the four years the number of potential years of life lost grew larger — 5,048 in 2010; 5,050 in 2011; 5,349 in 2012; and 5,428 in 2013.

CCPH Director Jane Caes said in a statement that she is glad Cedar County is in the top third of the health rankings, but that could be better.

“Cedar County welcomes these rankings as an opportunity to recognize and build upon our successes,” Caes said. “However, there is always room for improvement. Public health is a journey that presents new challenges every day.”

CCPH’s Bonnie Butler noted that West Branch schools do a better job at making pupils aware of the benefits of good health.

When asked if residents need more positive or negative enticements, Butler said “maybe a little of both,” like healthy choices and portion sizes.

“Like carrots with ranch dressing over Little Debbie snacks,” she said.

Caes calls the report “a snapshot in time.”

“We’ll use the rankings in conjunction with other community health assessment and planning efforts to find the best ways to build on our successes and address our challenges,” she said.

Some other findings on Cedar County:

• Low birthweight: 7.3 percent, down from 7.7 percent in 2012

• Adult smoking: 17 percent, down from 20 percent

• Adult obesity: 33 percent, unchanged

• Physical inactivity: 25 percent, unchanged

• Excessive drinking: 22 percent, down from 23 percent

• Teen birth rate (per 1,000 female population): 19, up from 18

• Uninsured: 9 percent, unchanged

• Ratio of primary care physicians to patients: 1 to 4,624, down from 1 to 6,016

• Preventable hospital stays (per 1,000 Medicare enrollees): 50, up from 48

• Inadequate social support: 13 percent, unchanged

• Children in single-parent households: 23 percent, unchanged

• Violent crime rate (per 100,000 population): 101, up from 86

• Fast food restaurants (percent of local restaurants): 45 percent, down from 48 percent


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