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March 28, 2014

Rankings show Cass in middle

Some health measures show little change

National rankings released this week put Cass County in the middle of the Hoosier health pack.

County Health Rankings compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute rank Cass County in 54th place out of Indiana's 92 counties measured by health outcomes like low birthweight and premature death, and in 64th place measured by health factors like obesity, teen births and availability of medical care.

Carroll County's rankings were significantly nearer the top — reaching 30th place in health outcomes and 17th for health factors. Pulaski ranked 65th measured by health outcomes and 47th by health factors.

Adult obesity in Cass County worsened to 35 percent, the data indicate, while the county's teen birth rate held steady at 48 per 1,000 teen girls and the rate of smoking decreased slightly to 23 percent.

It's not news to local leaders. All three aspects are major focuses of a countywide health-improvement coalition, Better Health of Cass County. The organization formed in early 2012 so much of its work isn't yet reflected in the county health rankings, which draw on data collected mainly from 2005 to 2011.

In particular, the BHCC task force focusing on teen pregnancy implemented a few measures — changing curriculum at the high school and bringing in speakers to address teenagers — starting in 2012.

"I think it may be too early to see what impact those things that the task force has done will have or have had on teen pregnancy, just because the data lags so far behind," said Vicki Byrd, a BHCC board member and administrator at Logansport Memorial Hospital. "It's the goal that that rate will drop over the next few years. But again, you just have to wait and see."

Byrd pointed out that personal responsibility is the biggest influencer for many of the health factors.

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