There has been a lot of discussion this week about the health rankings of Florida counties. For the fourth year running, the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which provide state and local leaders a snapshot of the overall health of people in each county. The rankings make clear that health results from many sources beyond clinical care. Combined economic, social, behavioral, and environmental factors are more significant determinants of health.
Health starts with good jobs and good education. This is just one more reason that the Governor’s Florida Families First budget is so important: it will create manufacturing jobs in Florida by eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment while promoting quality education with a $2,500 raise for public school teachers. Florida families and communities will be healthier as a result.
Much of the Florida data used in the County Health Rankings is readily available from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) at www.floridacharts.com. Florida’s 67 county health departments have already used the data to shape local health improvement plans by involving businesses, schools, public health professionals, clinicians, and civic leaders.
Many counties have made strides with local initiatives that focus on relevant health factors. Over the past three years, the rate of diabetic screening rose from 81 percent to 86 percent in Indian River County, while in Leon County, the rate of adult smokers decreased due to outreach from Tobacco Free Florida. Manatee County is striving to reduce obesity rates through programs focusing on physical activity and proper nutrition.
Weight challenge is the No. 1 public health threat that we face as a state. In Florida, only 35 percent of adults are at healthy weight; 65 percent are overweight or obese. One in four high school students is overweight or obese. The State Health Improvement Plan aims to bend the weight curve over the next four years.
Good health is an essential goal for all of us. It is time to make Florida the healthiest state in the nation. Now we need to move beyond health rankings to the real work of improving health in every Florida community across our state through integrated state, county, and community action.
John H. Armstrong, MD, FACS
Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health, Tallahassee