Where you live impacts your health. That’s according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that ranks the overall health of counties across the nation. The Washoe County Health District unveiled the findings for the region this week. Our reporter Anh Gray was there and talks with Nevada health care policy expert John Packham to learn more.
The annual health study placed Washoe County as ninth out of 16 counties that were ranked in Nevada. Washoe dropped five spots from the previous year. The four types of measures that were used to determine the county rankings include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment factors.
Director of Health Policy Research and the Associate Dean of the Office of Statewide Initiatives at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine John Packham says there are multiple social determinants that can affect the overall health of a community.
“I think that’s not only connected to opioid and other drug abuse, but I think it’s also tied to the fact that we have a pretty severe housing crisis in our community,” Packham explains. “One in five people according to the latest data that we’re viewing today, report difficulties with obtaining affordable, quality housing.”
The northern Nevada region is currently facing a severe affordable housing crisis. Packham says the burden of high housing costs reduces an individual's or family’s budget for other items such as food, healthcare and transportation. He says inadequate housing can also be an added stressor that affects a person’s mental health and well-being.
Expanding access to primary care, and behavioral and mental health services, Packham explains, are additional ways that Washoe County can improve the community’s health. The report findings help policy makers and healthcare officials to identify the needs in the county and to craft legislation and design programs that target the problems.