SARASOTA (WWSB) - Every year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population hHealth Institute at the University of Wisconsin partner on a study to determine the overall health of each county in every state.
Sarasota County has ranked highly in Florida since 2010 and this year, it’s second in the state for health factors and sixth in the state for health outcomes.
The County’s strong points are things like education, high rates of physical activity and numerous programs from local philanthropists like The Barancik Foundation to help overall community health.
When considering what it means to be healthy, experts say there’s a huge grid of factors that all relate in one way or another. It could be as severe as an early death that’s a result of childhood trauma, or even an adult who tends to be a scatterbrain, simply because they didn’t receive enough nurturing as a kid.
“They’re just always kind of struggling to get by and you [wonder] why can’t they pull themselves up? Why can’t they function right? Well think about the childhood they had, they might have an undeveloped brain," explained Kelly Romanoff, innovation and impact officer for The Barancik Foundation.
In an effort to mend those long term affects, the Barancik Foundation launched ‘First 1,000 Days.’
“You can’t reverse damage that’s done and you can’t get back those years, so First 1,000 Days is committed to capturing those families when that baby is new and born and ripe with potential and making sure that they flourish," Romanoff said.
It started when she saw brain images of a child who was neglected. Romanoff said they looked exactly the same as the brain of an elderly person with Alzheimer’s.
“Their brain function just was not lighting and firing in the same way of a healthy, active brain," she explained.
The Florida Department of Health said it’s programs like those that help make Sarasota County the second healthiest in the state for health factors.
“Access to health care, environmental factors that impact us, things out of the built in environment, social environment," further explained Chuck Henry, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota.
The County excels in those areas, along with education, high rates of physical activity and a low number of preventable hospital stays.
But one of the areas that need the most work is the region’s alcohol and drug addiction.
“Drug abuse and especially, death due to drug abuse," said Henry. "[For] these overdoses, Sarasota is towards the bottom 20 percent statewide.”
The exact rank is 55 out of the 67 counties in Florida.
“That’s looking at data from 2015-2017. So this is a problem, as I said, that we’ve been working on for a while," said Henry. "We believe we’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s something that we need to continue to focus on, because it has huge impacts on our community.”
The Florida Department of Health said this is an area that it has been focusing on through a health improvement plan.
They also add that the drug of choice has moved from prescriptions to opioids to other black market drugs like methamphetamine.
For the full 2019 County Health Rankings Report, click here.