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Lehigh Valley health ranked among lowest in Pa., report finds

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 12 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 14 2012 09:50:08 AM CST

Feeling okay? If you're sick, you're not alone.

Feeling okay? If you're sick, you're not alone. According to a new report, the Lehigh Valley is a long way from healthy, but area hospitals are joining forces to change that.

So, how healthy do you think the region is?

"I would say, better than average," said Laura Stoudt of Allentown.

Actually, according to the report, called "The Road to Health," the area's health prognosis is below average. In fact, it found that Northampton County alone is one of the sickest counties in Pennsylvania.

All four of the Lehigh Valley's major health care providers -- usually competitors -- commissioned the report.

"It kind of confirmed some of what was, I think, believed in general, and what we've been seeing," said Michelle Craig, of St. Luke's Hospital.

According to the report, common causes of death around the area include heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes, as well as car accidents and violence.

"It really doesn't surprise me," said Joseph Herrera, of Allentown. "All the youth in this town, all they do is like to drink, smoke, and party."

Experts said they believe the key is prevention, but how do you get people to care about their health?

At a strategy meeting Tuesday afternoon, health leaders said better outreach is a start, even using Twitter to reach people.

"Letting the folks know that they have options, that they don't necessarily need to go to an emergency room," said Peter Schweyer, of Sacred Heart Hospital, who also serves on the Allentown City Council.

More, and safer, parks space could also get kids exercising, but the biggest change could come with President Obama's health care overhaul, estimated to give 40 million more Americans health insurance.

"We're hoping that we improve access to health care for people who are in need of it," said Deborah Swavely, of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

For Stoudt, though, it all comes down to making better personal choices.

"I used to smoke, and I drink occasionally, but that's about it," she said.

Ultimately, experts said lots of better choices -- from all of us -- is the only way to turn the tide.