In this year’s list ranking the healthiest counties in Florida, Gulf County is smack dab in the middle, just a pinch to the upside.

In this year’s list ranking the healthiest counties in Florida, Gulf County is smack dab in the middle, just a pinch to the upside.

Of Florida’s 67 counties, Gulf ranked 33rd in the annual Health Rankings and Roadmaps report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The rankings are compiled in each state and county and offer annual statistical comparisons on a county-by-county level across a range of factors, including socio-economics, demographics and access to health care.

They are a snapshot of the health of counties and emphasize that health is not a singular effort but a combined work in progress across community partners, according to a release from the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County.

As far as neighboring counties, Gulf was ahead in the rankings of both Bay (No. 46) and Franklin (41), but trailed Calhoun (27).

The highest-ranked county in Northwest Florida was Santa Rosa at No. 7.

St. Johns County topped the rankings in Florida followed by Collier and Sarasota counties.

According to the Rankings and Roadmaps report, Gulf County has particular issues with adult smoking and obesity as well as physical inactivity and excessive drinking.

It is also a county with an above average number of uninsured residents.

The FDOH in Gulf County, along with its stakeholders, crafted the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) in 2016 to address specific opportunities for for improving health care identified in a community survey.

The CHIP partners meet regularly and collaborate to track progress, an effort, in part, to also address factors cited in the annual Johnson Foundation report.

“As we closely monitor the county’s positive health trends, were are also looking into those opportunities identified in the data with our Community Health Improvement partnership,” said MaryJim Montgomery, vice president of Patient Care at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf.

“These include access to health care servives, healthy weight community-based projects and awareness of mental health and substance abuse support services. CHIP partners are currently working on evidence-based strategies to address these top health concerns.”

In less than a year forward strides have been made in both project implementation and partnership growth, according to the FDOH in Gulf release.

The partnership, for example, last year created and printed a mental health and substance abuse resource guide for Gulf and Franklin counties.

In addition, health screenings in more localized settings are being made more widely available through coalitions, such as health screening days at New Bethel AME and Long Avenue Baptist churches in Port St. Joe.

Also ongoing is collaboration with local Early Childhood Education Centers (ECEs) to bolster healthy eating options and physical activity standards.

Three centers have adopted goals from the Let’s Move! child care campaign which focus on nurturing healthy eaters, providing healthy beverages, increasing physical activity while reducing screen time and supporting breast feeding.

“As a CHIP partner, it is my role to ensure the plan stays off the shelf and into community hands,” said Minnie Likely, a community advocate who also operates a tutoring program.

“Each CHIP meeting brings new faces to the table and new ideas to enhance priority areas. You know there is true potential in what you are doing when citizens are interested in CHIP projects in their neighborhood,”

The next CHIP workshop will be held 10:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. ET April 19 at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf.

“We all have a role to play in improving the health of our communities,” said Marsha Lindeman, Adminstrator for the FDOH in Gulf and Franklin Counties.

“In public health, our role is to orchestrate the collaboration among community partners to improve health outcomes. I encourage all to join the next CHIP workshop as we strive to make Gulf County a healthier place for citizens and generations to come.”

 Last week the Florida Department of Health celebrated a one year milestone as the first integrated department of health in the nation to achieve national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board. Public health departments play a critical role in protecting and improving the health of people and communities. The seal of accreditation signifies that the Florida Department of Health has been rigorously examined and meets or exceeds national standards that promote continuous quality improvement for public health.