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Health Action

Nancy  Rudner

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How healthy are we in Central Florida?

Short answer: We could be doing much better.

Among nations, the U.S. ranks 37th in life expectancy, between Costa Rica and Cuba. Nationally, Florida ranks 37th for overall health status, putting us just below Georgia (www.americashealthrankings.org). So at 37th, we have great opportunities to do better.

Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in Central Florida. More healthy eating and timely screening tests can make these less common. In Orange County, 12 percent of us rate our health as only fair or poor (www.cdc.gov/brfss). One in four has had no exercise in the past month. Almost three fourths of us have fewer than five fruits or vegetables a day, compared to the national recommendation of nine servings daily — and we live in an agricultural state! More than 10 percent of local residents are still smoking. More than 15 percent say they binge drink, having five or more drinks at one time. One quarter of us are not just overweight, but are obese.

We still have many uninsured Central Floridians — more than one quarter of us (27 percent) between the ages 0-64 years in Orange County has no insurance card. More than 80 percent of emergency room visits and many hospitalizations could be avoided with good outpatient care.

So how do we become a healthier community? Individual, family, business and community decisions all impact our health and well-being. The choices we make in how we spend our time, what we eat, how we interact with one another, and how we care for the most vulnerable among us all influence our health. The availability of healthy food choices in our farmers markets, produce stands and stores affect our nutrition. Restaurants with healthy options support good health. In some parts of the nation, local regulations ban foods with unhealthy trans fats in restaurants. The information and messages we read and hear, from billboards to radio to newsletters, subtly and not-so-subtly encourage us to eat junk food or eat low-fat, high-fiber foods that boost our immune system and overall health. Our parks play an important role in beckoning us to get some exercise and enjoy the spectacular greenery. Our work environments can either support healthy choices or perpetuate unhealthy behaviors. Many business leaders have recognized the market advantage of having a healthy workplace.

Our medical and health care systems also play a role in our health. If each of us has an annual checkup with the recommended screening tests (Find out what tests you need at www.healthfinder.gov), problems can be addressed in the early, more treatable stages.

So each time you get on your bike, skate on our local trails, eat some locally grown produce, and take the stairs at work, you are helping us become a healthier community. And when we make decisions on what kinds of community we want to have, we can choose healthier. Surely we can do better than 37th.


Learn more

So who’s healthiest? Vermont tops the list of healthiest states for the last four years of published 2010 America’s Heath Rankings reports. Vermont has had a steady climb in the rankings for the last 12 years from a ranking of 17th in the 1997 and 1998 Editions.

Massachusetts is ranked second, an improvement from third last year and has been top 10 for almost 20 years.

New Hampshire is ranked third, followed by Connecticut and Hawaii. Mississippi is ranked 50th, with Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma rounding out the bottom five. (source: www.americashealthrankings.org)