Overall, York County's five-year-long health kick is paying off.

When the first County Health Ranking came out five years ago, we ranked 25th out of Pennsylvania's 67 counties based on behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use, social and economic factors, and factors such as air pollution and access to parks.

Since then we've climbed seven spots to No. 18, according to the latest survey, which was released last month.

The rankings are compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a New Jersey-based philanthropic nonprofit that works to improve health and health care in the United States.

In general, the foundation and organizations like the Healthy York County Coalition and Aligning Forces for Quality of South Central Pennsylvania clearly are making progress toward that goal.

That's great – there's nothing like a little success as a motivator to do more.

Why can't we unseat Chester County to take the No. 1 spot?

But if that's the prize, we're going to have to work on those health areas where we lag – namely behaviors.

In that category – which includes factors like obesity, smoking, excessive drinking and teen births – York County was 36th in the state, down two spots from last year's rankings.

It's a well-earned slide, too.


Adult obesity in the county has risen from 29 percent to 33 percent over the past five years, with 23 percent of the population reporting no physical activity.

And while the county's smoking and teen birth rates are improving each year, both exceed national benchmarks.

If we don't address these issues, we could see the gains – such as fewer hospitalizations and decreasing readmission rates – slip away.

"If we keep getting bigger and we exercise less ... will we be able to keep the advancements in clinical care that we've made?" said Chris Amy, project director of Aligning Forces for Quality of South Central Pennsylvania.

The good news is it's in everyone's power to change their unhealthy behaviors.

You might not have a say in your access to health care or the quality of that care (areas York County actually scores very well in), but you certainly can control whether you smoke and how much you exercise.

Quit now, get off the couch, and we could be giving Chester County a run for its money in no time (without the wheezing).