Poor Diet, Obesity Are Big Problems in Franklin County

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FRANKLIN COUNTY — Obesity, poor diet and a lack of exercise are big problems for most county residents, according to a just-released Community Health Needs Assessment.

“Diet, exercise, obesity and mental health issues affect large numbers of Franklin County residents,” said Berwood A. Yost, director of Franklin & Marshall’s Center for Opinion Research and Floyd Institute for Public Policy.

Yost presented the study’s key findings to a gathering of stakeholders charged with finding solutions to health risks facing large numbers of County residents.

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The assessment report, released Wednesday by Summit Health, shows an alarming trend toward poor eating habits and lack of exercise among the county’s children and adults.

Obesity Among Adults, Kids on the Rise

Particants at Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference talk about health equality and how it affects the local community. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)
Berwood Yost addresses Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)

The study showed about a 10 percent increase in obesity over a similar study completed four years ago. And the 2015 study figures weren’t good.

Almost three-quarters of adults in the county are overweight and obese. Nearly a fifth of elementary aged children fit in the same category.

Teens fared slightly worse than their younger counterparts, with almost a quarter weighing in as obese.

A lack of exercise was partly to blame, according to study statistics. Only about 20 percent of the County’s population exercises regularly (30 minutes 5 days a week).

But poor dietary choices is also a factor, with only about 3% of those surveyed getting 3 servings of vegetables a day, down from 6% in 2015.

It wasn’t all bad news. The data in the report points to improvements in heart disease and dental care in the county.

Bad News Outweighs the Good

Particants at Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference talk about health equality and how it affects the local community. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)
Particants at Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference talk about health equality and how it affects the local community. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)

But, Yost said, the bad news outweighs the good news for county residents.

“Few residents regularly exercise and hardly anyone eats three vegetables a day,” he said. “Many people eat fast food three times a week.”

In addition, data suggested large income disparities among minority races and ethnicities.

These disparities have implications on health, Yost said, and they have persisted despite the county median household income going up.

Ann Spottswood, Summit’s director of community services, told community members hearing the results of the report that their agencies could change the overall health picture by changing the environment that has caused the problem.

“You are the doers … (and) increasingly, we know that health happens in the community,” Spottswood said. “If you want to change behavior, you change the environment.”

Barb Rossini, Summit’s vice president for planning and community relations, said, real change would require changes to policies.

“A healthy community isn’t just about a health system and hospitals,” she said. “A lot of these issues aren’t things we can change on the ground.”

Income Disparity Also a Factor

Participants  at Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference talk about health equality and how it affects the local community. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)
Particants at Wednesday’s Summit Health Community Health Needs Assessment conference talk about health equality and how it affects the local community. (Photos by Vicky Taylor)

The study showed large income disparities by race and ethnicity in Franklin County.

Black and Latino households have much lower median incomes than white households, with 24% of Latinos and 27% of Blacks living in poverty compared to 8.9% of Whites.

“These vast disparities have implications on health,” Yost said. “These disparities have persisted despite the county median household income going up.”

The CHNA study is designed to help community organizations what residents need in terms of health care and community resources, Rossini said.


In-depth details from the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment will be available online in the next few weeks at the buttons below.

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