Healthy Carolinians of Orange County recently released the 2017 State of the County Health Report, which gives an update on county health concerns and actions being taken to address them.

Healthy Carolinians coordinator Ashley Rawlinson said the State of the County Health Report is published each of the three years between Community Health Assessments, which are done every four years.

“It is like an annual snapshot of the health of Orange County. What we’re looking like, the causes of death and disease, and then any work that we’ve done in that past year to address any of those three priority areas,” said Rawlinson.

Healthy Carolinians has committees that focus on the three priority areas identified in the report: social detriments to health, physical activity and nutrition and mental health and substance abuse. The priority areas were selected by residents through community surveys.

Based on the report, the leading causes of death in Orange County are cancer, heart disease and cerebrovascular disease.

Rawlinson said access to care is one of the main focuses on social detriments to health despite UNC hospitals being so close.

“There’s a lot of individuals and families that can not get to health care or can not access it or transportation is also a barrier for them to actually get there,” Rawlinson said. “Insurance is an issue sometimes.”

The county held its first “Try Transit” week last October to help residents be more aware of transit options, understand how to read maps and learn where stops are in hopes to increase public transit usage.

“Through that we did some educational sessions; we had our transit professionals come in and they hosted a workshop; we allowed for residents and even professionals to ride public transportation for a day that was free of charge. And there was a week in October where anyone on specific routes could ride the route and they didn’t have to pay for it,” said Rawlinson.

Rawlinson said a lot of the work being done toward addressing priority areas is searching for ways to reach and educating the public and encouraging residents to get involved.

“We can’t work on something if we don’t know it’s an issue, and then it also takes the community telling us how to work on those issues,” Rawlinson said. “So we invite them to be a part of these community coalitions and community groups that’s actually on the ground doing the work, so that in the end we can affect policy that will hopefully have a lifelong change on the overall county.”

Although Rawlinson said she thinks Orange County ranks pretty high on the chosen priority areas, there are still a lot of gaps in our health care system.

“We have a lot of pockets of poverty,” Rawlinson said. “We have a lot of barriers to access, specifically like in the northern part of the county that may not always get registered and so we try to over-sample in those areas where it may not always get samples.”

The full report is available here.