Should’ve Passed the Bi-County Public Health Department

We’ve known about these problems forever, but anti-intellectual elected officials still doubt that population-level public health policy is a thing that works. They’re wrong, and should listen to the actual experts.

Tim Darragh:

The Lehigh Valley is a great place to recover from illness, but not a good place to stay healthy, a groundbreaking partnership of the Lehigh Valley’s nonprofit hospitals reports in a profile of the region’s health released Monday.

“The Road to Health — Community Health Profile 2012” is a first-step document in a process that will take between five to 10 years, said Ron Dendas, program officer at the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, one of the partners.

The report is an assessment of health data collected and analyzed by representatives of the trust, Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Sacred Heart Healthcare System and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.

The assessment found that compared to the rest of Pennsylvania and the United States, the Lehigh Valley’s death rates are better than most. However, measurements of illness show that the Valley lags most of the state and nation. The report uses data on such things as heart disease, cancer, stroke, injury and diabetes and compared Lehigh and Northampton county rates to state and national rates. It also features public opinion data gathered by the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium.

The findings are not surprising to public health officials in the region. The significance of the report, however, is that it represents a more unified, regional approach to addressing health needs and provides measurable goals.


  1. We can’t afford it. And people could always move.

  2. While such an organization seems fine–what’s the actual evidence for a correlation for having a regional health department and people not dying for eating too many bratwurst and drinking too much Pabst?

  3. Jack Contado says:

    Jon doesn’t need evidence. Anything tiny thing to further the “one World Government” meme

  4. Jon Geeting says:

    Can’t afford $1 million a year? Matched by $10 million from the state? That’s ridiculous.

  5. Matches come and go. See “Obama Stimulus” for the most recent example.

  6. Jon Geeting says:

    Not sure about bratwurst, but there’s plenty of evidence that population-level public health policies can reduce smoking and consumption of trans-fats (and probably sugary beverages), and that public health organizations are needed to distribute vaccines, increase health code compliance by restaurants, monitor water and air quality, etc.

  7. Jon Geeting says:

    The first step that needs to be in place is that public officials want to do something about the problem. Can’t fix the state part of the equation until you fix the local part.

    • That is exactly what we need, more government officials regulating our lives. Bloomberg must be your hero in NY with his regulations of soda, breast feeding and outlawing food donations to homeless shelters since the food doesnt disclose the trans fat in it.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        Can’t argue with results. There was always something hilarious about a bunch of visibly unhealthy old white guys arguing that public health doesn’t work during the debate over the Bi-County Health Department. Those guys need the public health policies more than anyone!

        • Actually this is another case where you read the headline and not the article.

          There is nothing in the article that talks about the only result that matters if you supported the plan – overall health of NYC residents. If they’re not measurably healthier, then this was a failure.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            So ignorant. Overall health is a product of multiple factors. That means you have to make progress on all the different factors individually. One problem is trans fat, another is smoking, another is corn syrup, etc etc. The trans fat policy reduced trans fat consumption. People are healthier for it. I don’t know how you dispute that.

          • This is why you’d never survive in the private sector – your willingness to reach conclusions with circumstantial evidence.

            I’ll give you a relevant example – when NYC raised cigarette taxes in 2010, sales plummeted 27%. “Fewer NYers are smoking!” would be your headline. Except for the fact that sales on nearby Indian reservations increased 40% and a black market for cigarettes exploded. Did smoking drop in NYC? No.

            Jon, I’m trying to be helpful here – your analysis is at best surface level. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to dig deeper, ask questions, probe for answers – even ones you don’t like – to get at the truth. Even in your world of policy makers running the universe, you can’t make good policy unless you know the full, unvarnished truth.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Actually you’ve got me all wrong. Unlike you I update my views as more evidence becomes available. I care about end goals, and am not attached to specific policy tools. In the case of public health policy, where or not you create a black market all depends on how elastic the demand is. Trans fat ban isn’t the same as a cigarette tax. There’s not gonna be a black market for trans fat-laden foods like there is for cigarettes. The policies that work to cut smoking rates are a combination of high taxes, increasing the number of places subject to smoke-free laws, and then private and normative stuff like breaks on your health insurance premiums if you quit, or the public stigma where smoking is increasingly viewed as low class.

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