Moving on up: Palm Beach County now the 8th healthiest in the state

Palm Beach County got it’s annual physical and the news was good.

Diverse and with a population of 1.4 million, Palm Beach County moved up to No. 8. It has moved up one slot each of the last two years and health officials say it shows that wellness programs by the Department of Health are working.

All the other counties ahead of them have far less population.

The  2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to give a snapshot of health across the country.

The researchers look at physical environments, social and economic factors, health behaviors and clinical care.

“These rankings are a testament to the hard work and commitment our community partners have toward assuring a healthy community,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director, Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of Department of Health in Palm Beach County, has gotten healthier as well in the last few years.

Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Healthcare Foundation, said programs such as Let’s Move, Diabetes Month and Healthier Together have paid off with healthier citizens.

He pointed to Joshua Timmer, a 14-year-old from St. Ann’s Catholic School in downtown West Palm Beach who took it upon himself to bring the Let’s Move program — a Palm Healthcare initiative – to his classmates. The program encourages 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day to combat obesity.

Joshua told The Palm Beach Post’s for a story earlier this month that he wanted to get kids moving who play a lot of video games.

On Wednesday, Joshua said between classes he was thrilled with the county’s ranking but wants to get people moving around the world.

He said it wasn’t easy putting down the video games at first.

“It was a hard change,” he said. “At the beginning, I wanted to play more video games, but then I realized I got stuff to do and I need to do more stuff outside.”

These days he plays basketball with his sibling and golf. “I do at least 30 minutes outside every day,” he said.

McNamara said it was Timmer and residents like him that moved the needle for Palm Beach County in the right direction.

“He was just an example of a resident taking it upon himself to be part of the solution,” he said. “One of the affirming things for us is that we are seeing growing numbers like him.”

Timmons is not alone. Andrea Bruton, the owner of SkyeHigh Fitness, leads an exercise program for older women in the black community in Delray Beach.

“Let’s Move has already made such a positive difference, such as bringing people and communities together–groups that would never otherwise mingle and building great rapport between the community and law enforcement,” she said.

The program gets companies, schools, colleges, non-profits, local community groups, families, to organize a team whose members log the minutes they have “moved” and compete against each.

Let’s Move is held each March for the entire month.

So let’s look at the numbers of the county’s annual checkup.

We got good numbers in the category of “health behavior” be it smoking tobacco or drinking excessively, ranking third among all Florida’s 67 counties. We landed in the top 10 in Life Expectancy (9) and Clinical Care (9).

Palm Beach County did get seem dings. It ranked 19th in Social and Economic Factors, such as income inequality and violent crime. It also ranked 32nd in “Physical Environment” that measures everything from pollution to driving alone to work.

We are lonely commuters, it appears.

Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

The hospitals see it from a different perspective. They see a community benefiting greatly from the Charles E Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University which spins out doctors in training to five hospitals.

“It is kind of known fact whenever you have academic institution affiliated with a hospital provider that elevates the level care,” said Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

He also said that increase the quality of care and cutting-edge medical care are due to the elderly population.

So next time you shake your fist at a senior maybe driving too slow think that he or she is to thank for heart surgery techniques not available in other counties and a host of other specialties that are available when it comes to treating cancer and brain disorders.

“The average age of a patient at Delray Medical Center is in the 80s,” Dardano said. “They are sicker people and in order to keep up we have developed state of the art techniques and have recruited physicians who can do all these specialties.”