County improves health ranking

Christian County is getting healthier.

The Christian County Health Department recently released its annual report for 2018. The report gives an overview of the programs that the health department provides, but the real eye opener was the county health rankings.

“We increased significantly in our health rankings,” said Amanda Bassingthwaite, CCHD health education manager. “So that was huge.”

Out of the 120 counties in Kentucky, Christian County ranks 50th in overall health. That is 18 spots higher than the county ranked last year and the second highest in the past four years.

Bassingthwaite explained that health data sometimes takes three or four years to make an impact in the county rankings.

“Three or four years ago we were implementing our first community health assessments,” she said. “The community has really gotten together to make these health decisions happen.”

The first health assessment in 2012 identified a high instance of chronic disease, high smoking rates, high instance of cancer and low access to health care. This led the health department to begin implementing new health initiatives.

The health department championed the smoke-free ordinance in the county. It also had a big hand in renovating the rail trail into a walking/cycling trail. To help give better access to health care, the department helped get public transportation in Hopkinsville off the ground.

“All of those were significant things that over the last four to six years have changed in Christian County,” Bassingthwaite noted. “The county has really taken a step together in that direction, towards health.”

She added that the health department hopes to see the ranking keep rising in future years.

“I feel like we’re still, as a community, striving in that direction,” she said.

The health department conducted a second health assessment in 2016.

Deaths caused by heart disease, cancer and lower respiratory problems were all under the state average. Deaths caused by stroke as well as child and infant mortality were above the state average.

Body mass index rates were 7 percent higher than the national average. Sexually transmitted disease rates were also alarmingly high. County rates for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea well exceeded state rates.

It’s clear that there is still work to be done, but the health department is planning to keep the momentum going.

Bassingthwaite explained that because initiatives that went into effect a few years ago are just now showing real dividends, that’s why the health department needs to keep implementing new initiatives to continue that growth in the future.

“Keep looking forward, in healthier directions,” she said.

Reach JON RUSSELBURG at jrusselburg@kentuckynew or 270-887-3241.