County Health Department takes lead to improve area’s poor health ranking
The 2011 County Health Rankings ranked San Bernardino County—which spans more than 20,000 square miles and a population of more than 2 million—50th out of 56 California counties in health factors like physical environment, social and economic factors, health behaviors and clinical care.
But initial disappointment over its low ranking didn’t prevent the San Bernardino County Health Department from seeing the County Health Rankings as an opportunity to strengthen its current health improvement initiatives and persuade policymakers of the need for change. In fact, by clearly showing where the county ranks on various health measures, the Rankings have helped inform the health department’s six-year drive to get every community in the county to launch a Healthy Communities initiative aimed at ensuring that all residents have the opportunity to live a healthy life.
Mayor fosters culture of health and wellness citywide
The 2011 County Health Rankings classified Desoto County as the healthiest county in Mississippi for health outcomes and the fifth-healthiest county for health factors, with lower unemployment rates, higher education rates and greater access to healthy food compared to the rest of the state. Yet much more work needs to be done to improve the health of Desoto County, as one-third of its adults are obese and Mississippi, overall, has the highest obesity rates in the nation.
Led by Mayor Chip Johnson, the city of Hernando, county seat of Desoto County, is now home to the largest farmers’ market in Mississippi and was designated as the Healthiest Hometown in the state in 2010 by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. Those are significant accomplishments, but Mayor Johnson continues to look for new opportunities to create a healthier community.
A major focus of Mayor Johnson’s efforts has been improving the city’s physical environment. When he was elected in 2005, Hernando didn’t have a parks department – so he started one. Not only have all city parks been revamped, but they now have athletic facilities, community gardens and a local bike club. The city has also undertaken initiatives to stripe bike lanes, widen roads, and expand sidewalks to encourage residents to lead more active lives.