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Better Together: Lebanon County

Addressing Community Health Needs

Obesity is a growing concern in Lebanon County. County Health Rankings reports 31% of Lebanon County residents are obese, which is higher than the Pennsylvania average (29%). People with obesity are at increased risk for many serious physical health conditions, as well as poor mental health.

In addition, county unemployment rates are rising and the number of children living in poverty continues to increase. When families are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, children experience consequences like poor health and failing grades.

While there are many human services programs available in Lebanon County, utilization of resources fall short in the areas of healthy food access, physical activity and mental health.

Lack of access to healthy foods and physical activity contributes to higher risks of obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Evidence has shown that mental disorders, especially depressive disorders, are strongly related to chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and obesity and many risk behaviors for chronic disease; such as, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive drinking and insufficient sleep.

The average lifespan of a person living in Lebanon County is 79 years old, yet the capacity of the human body is 92 years, leaving 13 years of life left on the table. Because lack of awareness is a key contributor to failing health in Lebanon County, residents and organizations can unite to share ideas, express needs and tap into existing resources to improve community health and longevity.

Making the Connection

After discovering that many local organizations were addressing community health, but operating independently, local philanthropist and community health advocate, Jeanne Donlevy Arnold, envisioned a collaborative process utilizing networks and partnerships. Working together, these groups could pool resources, focus on priority areas and improve community wellness in her hometown.

With a longstanding history in prevention, Penn State PRO Wellness partnered with Jeanne to realize this vision in Better Together: Lebanon County − an initiative bringing multiple sectors of the community together to improve the health and quality of life for its residents.