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Federal advisory group

Which is healthiest? Oregon counties ranked

It’s Benton County, according to a national report that ranks every county in the states. And Jefferson County is the least healthy.

(Data was compared for counties within a state, not to counties in other states.)

The report was compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation using measurements of health such as the length and quality of life, health behaviors, access to clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment. The report is proposed as an annual analysis of health, considering general health and the rate of premature death as well as factors such as rates of smoking, obesity, binge drinking, unemployment, childhood poverty, air pollution and access to grocery stores.

In Oregon the 10 healthiest counties, in order, are Benton, Washington, Clackamas, Polk, Hood River, Deschutes, Grant, Wasco, Wallowa and Marion.

The 10 least healthy counties are Coos, Curry, Linn, Josephine, Lincoln, Baker, Douglas, Lake, Klamath and Jefferson.

Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties were not ranked because of data that was inadequate or not comparable to data from other counties.

“These rankings show that good health happens where we live, work and play, and the choices we make as a community,” said Mel Kohn, M.D., M.P.H., director of Oregon Public Health. “My hope is that our counties will examine the issues and improve the health in their communities.”
For more information:

Links to County Health Rankings
Baker Douglas Lake Sherman
Benton Gilliam Lane Tillamook
Clackamas Grant Lincoln Umatilla
Clatsop Harney Linn Union
Columbia Hood River Malheur Wallowa
Coos Jackson Marion Wasco
Crook Jefferson Morrow Washington
Curry Josephine Multnomah Wheeler
Deschutes Klamath Polk Yamhill

Also in Statewide News:

Influenza update

H1N1 hits Native American population harder

Oregon among nation’s top states for breastfeeding

Increasing need for state assistance continues into 2010


2009–2010 flu season

H1N1 waning in Oregon, but not disappearing

Even though cases of influenza have declined to low levels, the state of Oregon says doctors should continue to give the H1N1 vaccine to their high-risk patients. Nearly all the influenza cases still circulating are pandemic H1N1, and the disease is expected to upsurge this next fall and winter.

Nationally, 57 million Americans contracted the disease between April 2009 and mid-January 2010. Another 80 million received the vaccine.

In Oregon, 1,311 people have been hospitalized from the flu since Sept. 1, 2009, and 67 have died.

The vaccine is still plentiful in the state. Mel Kohn MD, MPH, director of Oregon Public Health Division, urged the health care community to follow these suggestions:

  • Make H1N1 vaccine available to those who want it through walk-in clinics and/or appointments.
  • Vaccinate people who have chronic diseases and those who are home-bound.
  • Recall children under age 10 who need a second dose to protect them now and prevent the need for a two-dose regimen next year.
  • Encourage people who will be traveling abroad to get vaccinated.
  • Retain unexpired H1N1 vaccine supplies as a reserve in case the demand for vaccination increases before seasonal vaccine becomes available.

For more information

Oregon may be an exception

H1N1 hits Native American population harder

A study of 12 states, including Oregon, showed Native Americans died from H1N1 flu at a much higher rate than the general population during the 2009 season.

The study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It looked at H1N1 deaths among American Indian/Alaska Natives in 12 states between April 15 and Nov. 13, 2009.

“Nationally, it appears the rate of death from pandemic H1N1 among American Indians and Alaska Natives was four times higher than it was for the general population,” says Richard Leman, MD, epidemiologist for Oregon Public Health, who contributed to the report. “Fortunately, we haven’t seen this disparity in Oregon, but we’re looking at the national information and taking it very seriously.”

Leman says it’s not clear why the death rate is higher for indigenous people, but may be linked to higher rates of underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or health care access problems that may have delayed prompt medical care.

Only one Native American has died from pandemic H1N1 flu in Oregon since Sept. 1, 2009: a woman who had multiple underlying health problems.

WIC performance award

Oregon among nation’s top states for breastfeeding

Oregon has been recognized as having one of the best breastfeeding rates among larger states by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack citing that record in announcing a performance award for Oregon Nutrition and Health Screening Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The Oregon WIC program received a performance bonus of $311,463 with the national award.

“The WIC program is critical to helping lower-income mothers get their children off to a healthy start and it is important that we recognize states doing an exceptional job,” Vilsack said.

“Breastfeeding has always been more of a cultural norm in Western states such as Oregon,” said Sue Woodbury, Oregon WIC director. “However, historically, rates for lower-income children have been much lower. Helping mothers to breastfeed is a cost-effective way to improve health and address the obesity epidemic.”

More than 90 percent of the 27,907 mothers served by Oregon WIC, which is part of the Oregon Public Health Division, breastfeed their newborns. The national rate is 74 percent.

Human milk reduces the risk of childhood obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and leukemia. Lower breastfeeding rates increase the risk of allergies, infections and sudden infant death syndrome. Mothers that do not breastfeed have higher rates of breast cancer and osteoporosis. It takes non-breastfeeding mothers longer to lose their pregnancy weight gain, which can contribute to obesity.

The risks associated with lower breastfeeding rates also mean more use of health services. When compared to breastfed babies, for every 1,000 babies not breastfed there are 2,033 more medical visits, 212 more days in the hospital and 609 more prescriptions.

The Oregon WIC program reaches more 38 percent of all infants born in Oregon; in rural counties the program serves 51 percent of infants born. Last year 179,127 mothers and children under age 5 were served in Oregon.

WIC is available in all 36 Oregon counties. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supported by community organizations and counties and is administered by Department of Human Services Public Health Division.

Economic downturn

Increasing need for state assistance continues into 2010

The stock market may show promise, and the number of new unemployment claims may be declining, but the need for state assistance is still on the rise.

Figures released by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) show demand for food and cash assistance has continued to rise in the spring. In March, enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) rose to 696,306 Oregonians, up 23 percent from one year ago and nearly 44 percent since July 2008, when the state’s unemployment rate was just over 6 percent. Enrollment in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance for low-income families with children, reached a total of 26,661 enrolled families, up 9 percent from a year ago and 34 percent from July 2008.

“This economic downturn has made it more difficult than ever for Oregonians and their families to be self-sufficient,” said Erinn Kelley-Siel, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services Children, Adults and Families Division. “SNAP and TANF help provide a safety net for people—helping families maintain stability while they find and keep jobs, protecting the health and well-being of low-income children, and supporting local economies.”

DHS offers these resources for Oregonians to determine benefits for which they may be eligible:

  • Read the news account in The Hermiston Herald.
  • The local DHS offices determine eligiblility for SNAP benefits, TANF, the Oregon Health Plan or other services.
  • The web site, www.OregonHelps.org, also provides information on eligibility.
  • Applications for TANF and SNAP benefits are available at www.oregon.gov/dhs/assistance.
  • SafeNet helps people find food pantries and other local resources. The number is 1-800-SAFENET (1-800-723-3638).
  • Oregon veterans and their families can find out about potential benefits as a result of military service at www.oregon.gov/ODVA/BENEFITS/.

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