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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Report: Chemung ranks as one of the unhealthiest counties in New York

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  • Chemung County is one of the unhealthiest counties in New York, according to a report released Wednesday.
    Chemung County ranked 60th out of 62 counties in the state, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings compiled by researchers at the Robert Wood Foundation and University of Wisconsin.
    Using 29 factors, including the prevalence of smoking and obesity as well as poverty and college attendance, researchers ranked the overall health of each county, state-by-state. New measures such as housing, transportation and food insecurity were also part of this year’s rankings.
    Chemung County, whose ranking didn’t change from last year, was recorded as only healthier than Sullivan and Bronx counties.
    That’s actually good news, according to Rosemary Anthony, manager of Community Health Services for Arnot Health.
    “We haven’t changed because it shows that we’re in the process of improving,” Anthony said.
    Melissa Klossner, clinical director for the Chemung County Health Department, adds that while the county is slowly improving, other counties are doing the same, perpetuating the low ranking.
    “It’s important not to compare county-to-county or state-to-state because everybody’s working as well,” Klossner said. “We probably made improvements where other counties made improvements as well, so the numbers don’t change quite as much.”
    Key contributing factors in Chemung County’s low ranking include the prevalence of tobacco use and obesity, which in turn lead to an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes and lung cancer.
    But socioeconomic factors also play a large role in the county’s ranking.
    “The effect of unemployment, poverty, housing ... all of these social determinants of health affect health outcomes,” Anthony said. “We’re very delighted that the social determinants of health are now being factored into the county rankings because it goes to show that you need a whole village in order to make a change.”
    Steuben and Schuyler counties were also in the bottom half of the New York rankings, at 40th and 44th, respectively.
    Though Steuben County ranked significantly better than Chemung, health care providers are still troubled by its health issues.
    Dr. Russell Woglom, an internal medicine physician and medical director for Corning’s Guthrie Clinic, sites tobacco use and obesity as very serious issues within Steuben County.
    “We’ve had higher instances of diabetes in our area for quite some time and that relates to the larger percentage of obesity that we have,” Woglom said. “We still struggle with tobacco use and we struggle with people being physically active. Our challenge is how to make them make better choices.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Though changes in socioeconomic conditions and health habits won’t happen overnight, it’s still essential to promote change. The goal, Anthony says, is to build an environment where healthy decisions are the default decisions.
    “We can’t necessarily fix people’s incomes, but what we can do is work with the hand that we’ve been given and help them learn how to manage their health that way,” Anthony said. “The numbers aren’t a reflection of a lack of effort; the numbers are a reflection of where we’re going to go.”

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