In the 2023 County Health Rankings, Boone County secured the position of the third healthiest county in Indiana. This accomplishment underscores the county’s persistent dedication to promoting the health and well-being of its community members. Published on an annual basis, the County Health Rankings provide essential insights into the determinants impacting health within the county and furnish a roadmap for prospective advancements.
A Collaborative Effort to Stay Healthy
The third-place designation for Boone County as the healthiest county in Indiana is a testament to the unwavering dedication of the Healthy Coalition. Made up of committed community partners, this coalition has diligently mobilized and delivered coordinated services through a unified public health system. Through the promotion of healthy lifestyles and targeted interventions addressing critical health needs, the Healthy Coalition has played a pivotal role in securing this noteworthy achievement.
The County Health Rankings are available at countyhealthrankings.org.
President of the Boone County Commissioner Don Lawson expressed his enthusiasm for this recognition, stating, “We are incredibly proud to be named the third healthiest county in Indiana. This achievement reflects the dedication and hard work of our community partners, healthcare professionals and residents who have come together to prioritize health and well-being. It is a testament to our commitment to creating a healthier, happier and more vibrant Boone County.”
Lisa Younts, RN, Boone County Health Dept. Administrator and Nursing & Vital Records Director, discussed what it takes to be listed as one of the state’s healthiest counties and how the county’s health department has been firing on all cylinders since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“We’ve gotten back to the normalcy of what we were doing before COVID,” Younts said. “All of our programs are back in full swing. Even though COVID-19 is still circulating, we’re fortunate enough to still have COVID tests that we are providing to the public for free. It is nice to do our normal day-to-day duties on top of that.”
When asked what factors are considered to be ranked at the top of the health rankings, Younts replied, “There are quite a few factors that go into the overall understanding of the health rankings of a population. Where Boone County has its best numbers in terms of health outcomes that represent how healthy a county is right now [is] length of life and quality of life. The health factors that we can modify are behaviors such as smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity. Where Boone County differs from other counties [in] a reporting aspect is that 84% of our residents reported having access to exercise opportunities. [It] is huge to have that access because not all communities have that.”
Younts commended the county’s communities for their collaborative efforts in connecting and extending trail systems and expanding parks and green spaces, all of which provide access to physical activity to all of the county’s residents, employees and visitors.
Health Education Is Key
Younts emphasized that educating the public is essential to preventing illness and maintaining a healthy, vibrant county. The Boone County Health Department continues to offer and promote its programs and services. It has elevated its public education offerings by utilizing its public information officer Claire Houghton even more as the county’s population grows exponentially.
“The health department’s community efforts are aimed at the prevention of disease and the promotion of health,” Younts said. “We are constantly working to get the information out there to prevent things from happening. We’re able to do what we do because of the community partnerships that we’ve created throughout the years, especially with the Boone County commissioners, Witham Hospital and the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. All of these community partners came together for the COVID response, and because we were fortunate to already have these relationships in place, it made it easier for the county to move forward.”
Younts shared that the health department’s biggest programs are its immunization and food safety programs.
“We participate in the state’s immunization program, which allows us to give low-cost or no-cost vaccines if you qualify,” Younts said. “That is huge in that it allows us to break down that barrier and enables us to give vaccinations to our residents.”
The health department also provides required vaccinations to students of the county’s three public school districts. Younts explained that they provide clinics for routine vaccinations and flu clinics for the general public as well. Younts ranks educating the public on the importance of staying up on vaccinations as a high priority and a requirement to maintain a healthy county status.
“While not all vaccines prevent [illness], they will make it less severe and reduce the risk of hospitalization and death,” Younts emphasized. “We work to provide education on all of the various vaccinations so that individuals can make informed decisions. We do homebound vaccines for those individuals [who] cannot come out to us. It’s another way that we can break down those barriers.”
Younts spoke about the health department’s goals to have its PIO available to as many organizations throughout the county as possible. She mentioned that no health-related topic is off-limits.
“The more the word gets out, the more we can hopefully help,” Younts said. “If any company, events or organization would like more information on a health topic, we are making Claire available to everyone in the county as much as possible. We offer all sorts of health education programs to the community. Claire’s been doing a lot in the [county] schools, but we’re hoping to get her in front of a lot of different organizations as well.”
Younts is hopeful that as the county’s population grows and more companies relocate to the county, her budget will allow her to expand the PIO department and reach even more people and businesses by adding another public information officer to her staff in the next couple of years.
For more information on all the programs and services provided by the Boone County Health Department, visit boonecounty.in.gov. You can also follow the department on Facebook.