Douglas County residents are a bit thinner and a bit less inclined to step out for a cigarette than they were last year.

That’s enough to bump Douglas County from 31st place to 30th in the state for the overall health of its residents.

This piece of good news comes from the County Health Rankings, an annual list of how well each county in the United States is doing on a range of health measures. Douglas has been in 30th place statewide before, in 2013 and 2014, but those years only 33 Oregon counties were ranked. For the first time this year, all 36 Oregon counties were ranked. That puts Douglas further from the bottom than it has been since the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute began the rankings six years ago.

Curry, Coos, Harney, Klamath and Jefferson counties all ranked below Douglas this year.

Douglas County Public Health Administrator Bob Dannenhoffer said the new rankings are encouraging.

“I’m pleased, but certainly not satisfied. I want to see more. I’m not going to rest until Douglas County is one of the healthiest counties in the country,” he said.

The measures on which Douglas fared well this year could bode well for the future health of the county, Dannenhoffer said. The percentage of county residents who smoke dropped dramatically, from 24 percent last year to 18 percent this year. And the percentage of obese residents dropped from 34 to 31 percent. Down the road, that could mean fewer premature deaths, Dannenhoffer said.

“Some of the premature death is from accidents and such, but much of that is from COPD or from heart attacks, both of which we could really impact in a positive way by decreasing obesity and decreasing the rate of smoking,” he said.

Dannenhoffer also heads the Douglas Public Health Network, which has contracted to manage public health services for the county. He is the former CEO of Architrave Health, which owns the local coordinated care organization Umpqua Health Alliance.

He said the new statistics suggest that recent measures like the move to eliminate smoking in local parks may be working. He also cited the Kickstart Douglas County program, which was organized by Umpqua Health Alliance during his tenure at Architrave, and offered many free exercise opportunities during the summer.

“There’s been a concerted effort to decrease smoking, and ... there’s been some work on the obesity, but these are things that take a long time to fix, so I’m very, very gratified to see it’s going in the right direction,” Dannenhoffer said.

County residents were more physically active, with just 19 percent saying they got no exercise, compared with 21 percent last year.

Obesity may also be going down due to a nationwide trend toward giving up sugary drinks like soda, Dannenhoffer said, as well as to the additional exercise.

“It’s lots of little steps taken by hundreds of thousands of people to make this change,” he said.

The statistics suggest we may be feeling better, too. The county’s quality of life ranking moved up from 32nd to 27th place, with just 16 percent saying they were in poor or fair health, compared to 23 percent in 2015.

Not all the news is good, though. Dannenhoffer said he’s concerned about the increase in binge drinking. Fifteen percent of adults reported they drank too much last year, compared to 19 percent this year.

And teen births remain high. Last year, 40 births were reported per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. This year saw only a small improvement, to 39 births per 1,000 teens.

“People should have babies when they want to have babies and we know that many of the babies that kids have, that teenagers have, are unintended pregnancies,” Dannenhoffer said.

Dannenhoffer said one goal will be to work with the coordinated care organization, Umpqua Health Alliance, on enhancing access to contraception for people on Medicaid. A majority of women on Medicaid aren’t looking to get pregnant, he said, but only a minority are on effective birth control.

He said there’s been a concerted effort recently to ensure that “everybody who wants to have birth control gets it.”

The ratio of doctors to patients worsened, with only one doctor per 1,650 patients this year, compared to one per 1,576 last year. Dannenhoffer cautioned that figure can be misleading in Douglas County, where a significant number of doctors work for the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and don’t treat non-veteran patients.

The quality of clinical care has always been a strong positive for Douglas County in the rankings. This year, the county ranked 11th on this measure statewide.

Not every factor measured in the county health rankings can be impacted directly through public health measures. Also ranked are socioeconomic factors like the percentage of high school graduates (69), the unemployed (9.4) and children in poverty (29). The number of children in poverty remained about the same this year, but graduation rates have improved and unemployment has decreased.

The physical environment is a plus for Douglas County. It ranked ninth on this measure because the air is cleaner, housing more abundant and commutes shorter than the statewide average.

Dannenhoffer is optimistic that the county’s health statistics will continue to improve. He’d like to see the decline in obesity and smoking continue.

“We’re certainly one of the most beautiful counties in the country, and it would certainly be great to be one of the healthiest counties in the country,” Dannenhoffer said.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.,Alliance.

He said the new statistics suggest that recent measures like the move to eliminate smoking in local parks may be working. He also cited the Kickstart Douglas County program, which was organized by Umpqua Health Alliance during his tenure at Architrave, and offered many free exercise opportunities during the summer.

“There’s been a concerted effort to decrease smoking, and ... there’s been some work on the obesity, but these are things that take a long time to fix, so I’m very, very gratified to see it’s going in the right direction,” Dannenhoffer said.

County residents were more physically active, with just 19 percent saying they got no exercise, compared with 21 percent last year.

Obesity may also be going down due to a nationwide trend toward giving up sugary drinks like soda, Dannenhoffer said, as well as to the additional exercise.

“It’s lots of little steps taken by hundreds of thousands of people to make this change,” he said.

The statistics suggest we may be feeling better, too. The county’s quality of life ranking moved up from 32nd to 27th place, with just 16 percent saying they were in poor or fair health, compared to 23 percent in 2015.

Not all the news is good, though. Dannenhoffer said he’s concerned about the increase in binge drinking. Fifteen percent of adults reported they drank too much last year, compared to 19 percent this year.

And teen births remain high. Last year, 40 births were reported per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. This year saw only a small improvement, to 39 births per 1,000 teens.

“People should have babies when they want to have babies and we know that many of the babies that kids have, that teenagers have, are unintended pregnancies,” Dannenhoffer said.

Dannenhoffer said one goal will be to work with the coordinated care organization, Umpqua Health Alliance, on enhancing access to contraception for people on Medicaid. A majority of women on Medicaid aren’t looking to get pregnant, he said, but only a minority are on effective birth control.

He said there’s been a concerted effort recently to ensure that “everybody who wants to have birth control gets it.”

The ratio of doctors to patients worsened, with only one doctor per 1,650 patients this year, compared to one per 1,576 last year. Dannenhoffer cautioned that figure can be misleading in Douglas County, where a significant number of doctors work for the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and don’t treat non-veteran patients.

The quality of clinical care has always been a strong positive for Douglas County in the rankings. This year, the county ranked 11th on this measure statewide.

Not every factor measured in the county health rankings can be impacted directly through public health measures. Also ranked are socioeconomic factors like the percentage of high school graduates (69), the unemployed (9.4) and children in poverty (29). The number of children in poverty remained about the same this year, but graduation rates have improved and unemployment has decreased.

The physical environment is a plus for Douglas County. It ranked ninth on this measure because the air is cleaner, housing more abundant and commutes shorter than the statewide average.

Dannenhoffer is optimistic that the county’s health statistics will continue to improve. He’d like to see the decline in obesity and smoking continue.

“We’re certainly one of the most beautiful counties in the country, and it would certainly be great to be one of the healthiest counties in the country,” Dannenhoffer said.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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