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  Out of 33 Oregon counties, we rank 32nd in health outcomes
  By JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 3/31/11 
     Klamath County residents are among the least healthy in the state.
   The county again ranked second to last in health outcomes, such as premature deaths and residents living with an illness, and 23rd out of the 33 ranked counties for health factors like smoking, obesity, poverty and access to health care, according to a study released Monday.  

   “Those are disturbing numbers,” said Toby Freeman, chairman of the Klamath County Healthcare Access Committee, which is working to recruit and retain primary care providers.

   Personal responsibility  

   Improving the health of Klamath County residents, he said, will take greater personal responsibility and greater access to primary care. But those changes could take time.        “It isn’t a huge surpr ise,” F reema n sa id about the rankings. “I don’t know that you’d expect to see these numbers change a whole lot in a year.”

   Last year, K lamath County ranked 26th out of 33 ranked counties in health behaviors and 32nd in health outcomes.

   The study, which was published for the first time last year on countyhea lth ra n k ings.org, showed that K lamath County moved up the rankings this year in some health factor categories, like healthy behaviors and social and economic factors.  

   Slight improvement

   “ I t h i n k it ’s g reat that we did see a slight improvement,” said Melissa Klegseth, health promotion and disease prevention coordinator with Klamath County Public Health. “It’s just a slow process.”

   Sky La kes Medical Center spokesman Tom Hottman said the county health rankings published last year were an “epiphany” for the hospital’s leadership.

   In light of the county’s poor health status in those rankings, Sky Lakes’ board of directors told hospital staff to give greater focus to improving the overall health of the community rather than just treating illness, he said.

   Since then, Hottman said, the hospital has given away more 2,000   pedometers to encourage more active lifestyles and started a program to encourage employee health improvements.

   Hottman said he did not expect to see Klamath County make a huge jump in the rankings in the year since they were last published.

   “It’s a little bit like losing weight — quick fixes don’t work,” he said. “ These rankings show that there are plenty of opportunities for us as a community to do more …
  We don’t need to get discouraged, we just need to persevere.”   T h e s t a t e ’s t h r e e least-populous counties wer e not i nclude d i n   the rankings.

    jaschbrenner@heraldandnews  . com   About the study  

   CountyHealthRankings.org is a study produced by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

   The study ranked nearly all counties from 50 states in health outcomes, like how many people are living with an illness   and how many people die prematurely, and health factors, like behavior, environment and access to care.

   The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a nonprofit that aims solely to improve public health, according to the foundation’s website.
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