Study ranks Cumberland County as 5th best health outcome in Pa.

A new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that living Cumberland County may be good for your health.

The study covers more than how often people make trips to see their doctors. Rather, it focuses on several overall health categories including social and economic factors, health behaviors, clinical health, and physical environment.

“Where we live matters to our health,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Program Officer Abbey Cofsky said. “Our towns, our neighborhoods, our counties influence how well we feel and how long we live.”

Research shows Cumberland County’s favorable social and economic factors, like low levels of violent crime, contribute to its high ranking as fifth on the list of healthiest counties in Pennsylvania.

“Where they live, the violence in that community, may increase the stress level that they have in their life, and that may include mental illness or physical illness that may result from that chronic stress,” Dickinson College Executive Director of Wellness Alecia Sundsmo said.

Dickinson says its seeing some trends from the study on its campus, like decreased tobacco use and increased exercise. But there’s a lot more that goes into the snapshot of a county’s health.

“When most people think about health, they think about, ‘Are they sick or not?'” Sundsmo said. “And really what we’re focusing on from a more general perspective is the physical, mental and social well-being of an individual.”

“This is not a race to the top,” Cofsky pointed out. “We know that no matter where a county ranks now – the bottom, the middle, the top – all counties can improve.”

Both Cofsky and Sundsmo point to mental health as an area that needs more work across the board, even in Cumberland County.

“There’s the fear of potentially getting a poor diagnosis, or the fear of what might happen, if they’ll be able to afford treatment or not in the community,” Sundsmo said. “I think the stigma about help-seeking behaviors is one of the biggest barriers for people to improve their health.”

For more information about the study, go to www.countyhealthrankings.org/app/pennsylvania/2015/overview.

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