Pontotoc County ranked 61 out of 77 in a recent health ranking of counties in Oklahoma.

Michael Echelle of Pontotoc County Health Department said the rankings are a tool for counties to learn areas where they can improve.

Factors considered include health outcomes (morbidity), health factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment).  Pontotoc’s lowest score is in health behaviors, ranking 76 out of 77.  In that area, the only categories Pontotoc County scored better than Oklahoma in general were sexually transmitted infections (368 to Oklahoma’s 409 per 100,000 people) and teen birth rate (58 to Oklahoma’s 59 per 1,000 females between 15 and 19).  Pontotoc still fell short of the national benchmark in each of those categories, however, which was 83 and 22, respectively.

According to the rankings, Pontotoc County has a 29 percent adult smoking rate compared to Oklahoma’s 25 percent and the national benchmark of 15 percent.

“This report is a helpful tool to broadly guide our county health department as well as other county health departments in their community health improvement planning endeavors,” Echelle said.  “If we look at this report or our agency’s county health rankings report we know that there are recognized health issues in Oklahoma and that includes Pontotoc County.

“We are using the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan.  It’s focused on tobacco use prevention, obesity, child health, infrastructure issues, and social determiners of health as a blueprint to assist in improving the health of Pontotoc County residents.”

He said a new tobacco prevention program has recently been implemented in Pontotoc County.

“We will be working with our county schools and area businesses to educate and warn people about the ill-effects of tobacco,” he said.

Echelle said the health department also aims to improve children immunization rates.

“If we could just reduce our tobacco use, exercise more, and eat a healthy diet, we could improve the health of all residents in Pontotoc County,” he said.

Learn more about the project at www.countyhealthrankings.org.