Pueblo is known as “The Home of Heroes,” but according to a new study it’s not a healthy home.
In a snapshot study of counties across the state, Pueblo County ranked 54th out of 59 counties, suggesting it is one of the unhealthiest in Colorado.
Southern Colorado health officials tell 11 News when it comes to clinical care Pueblo ranks high on the list, but what brings the rating way down are the individual health choices people make.
Stats show Puebloans smoke more (24 percent compared to 14 percent nationally), drink almost twice as much, and have one of the highest obesity rates in the state.
Dr. Chris Nevin-Woods, Pueblo County's chief medical officer, told 11 News the health consequences stemming from unhealthy lifestyle choices are all within the individual's control.
"To smoke or quit, to drink, to be be active or inactive, to eat healthy, to not eat healthy, to get a good night's sleep, to watch their sexual health," Nevin-Woods said, running down the list of choices people make.
The study also indicates that they are more likely to die prematurely than average Americans or fellow Coloradans. Health officials say this is primarily due to chronic diseases such as diabetes that are preventable by healthy activity, but that Puebloans did not work to prevent.
“We have so many things going against us in our society: fast food, people who drive their cars all the time and aren’t active, don’t exercise. They don’t know that fruits and vegetables are key to their diet”, said Nevin-Woods.
Health officials say social economic issues such a poverty also play a factor in the rating. Pueblo reportedly has one of the highest poverty rates in the state.
The study suggests teen pregnancy is a major contributor to inter-generational poverty. The study suggested teens were three times more likely to become a parent than in other counties in the state, which can lead to a vicious poverty cycle.
“When you have births when you are very young, teen pregnancies, and don’t get through school and can’t get a decent job, it’s very hard to break out of poverty,” said Nevin-Woods.
Pueblo health officials are not surprised by the poor rating. They don’t want it to discourage people, instead prompt them to take charge of their health.
“We can help them get to the door but they have to go through the door and make those decisions and those changes in their lives. And there are so many opportunities in Pueblo to help people be able to make that change,” said Nevin-Woods.
The health department recently did their own assessment of Pueblo’s health needs.
They identified two health priorities: obesity and teen/unintended pregnancy.
They say it will take a community coming together to tackle these two big issues in Pueblo.
Officials already started creating a five-year plan and hope by using proven health intervention methods it will be a winnable battle.
Health officials say they plan on choosing successful programs and use interventions that have been shown to work in order to makes an impact on Pueblo’s health.
Nevin-Woods wants people to understand that this “snapshot” study only takes a one time look at the community. They say their assessment and ongoing studies will take a much deeper look and gather much more data and a more well-rounded evaluation.
The study was published by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Data was published on more than 3,000 counties nationally and in the District of Columbia.
Regionally Las Animas, Otero, Rio Grande, Lake and Huerfano counties trailed Pueblo.
El Paso County ranked 30th among the healthiest in Colorado.
You can view the study online at www.countyhealthratings.com.