Thank You

Thank you to the following organizations for their continued support of our research and this Data Dashboard, which is part of Project STIR (Sparking Transformation using Information & Research).

Moses Taylor Foundation
The Robert H. Spitz Foundation
Willary Foundation
Scranton Area Community Foundation
William G. McGowan Charitable Fund
J

Return to Indicators dashboard main page

Health & Healthcare

The Health and Health Care section of this report identifies important health indicators in Pennsylvania and Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. These indicators include death from health conditions such as cancer and heart disease, death by suicide, infant and child mortality, childhood lead exposure, teen pregnancy, unhealthy behaviors such as cigarette smoking and excessive drinking, health insurance status, obesity, and the availability of health care facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Cancer & Heart Disease

Cancer

Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties have reported fluctuating cancer death rates in recent years, while the cancer death rate in Pennsylvania has been steadily declining. Over the years analyzed, the annual average number of deaths by cancer has been 176.6 in Lackawanna County and 173.3 in Luzerne County, exceeding the annual average rate of 165.5 in the Commonwealth. There was a sharp decline in the cancer death rate in Lackawanna County in 2019 to 152.4, making it lower than the statewide rate for the first time in recent years. Luzerne County experienced a slight increase in the cancer death rate in 2019 following a decline the previous year.

 

Heart Disease

Pennsylvania’s age-adjusted rate of death by heart disease has seen a generally declining trend, while Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties have reported fluctuating rates of death by heart disease in more recent years. The statewide heart disease death rate was six percent lower in 2019 than it was in 2011. The heart disease death rate declined in both counties in 2019, following two years of growth. Despite this decline, both geographies continue to be significantly above the state rate of death by heart disease.

Cancer Deaths (Age Adjusted Rate per 100,000)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Heart Disease Deaths (Age Adjusted Rate per 100,000)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Adult Obesity Rate (BMI > 30.0)

There was a slight decline in the adult obesity rate to 29 percent in the region encompassing Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties, while the rate in Pennsylvania has continued to gradually increase to a rate of 32 percent for the period 2017 to 2019. Over the entire time period analyzed, the average adult obesity rate is 30 percent regionally and 31 percent statewide.

Adult Obesity Rate (BMI > 30.0)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

2013-20152014-20162015-20172016-20182017-2019
Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming30%30%30%30%29%
Pennsylvania30%30%31%31%32%

Childhood Lead

Pennsylvania does not require universal testing of children for elevated lead levels; tests are only mandated for children covered by Medicaid. In 2019, the number of children younger than 72 months with tested blood lead levels (BLL) higher than five micrograms per deciliter totaled 397 for both counties combined. Nearly 20 percent of children in this age group were tested statewide. The percent of children tested in Luzerne County has followed statewide trends since 2017. Lackawanna County continues to trail statewide and Luzerne County testing rates, with 16 percent of children in this age group tested in 2019.

The share of tested children with elevated BLL in Lackawanna County (8.0 percent) has declined since 2017, although it continues to exceed the rates in Luzerne County (5.8 percent) and statewide (4.6 percent).

Percent of Tested with Elevated BLL

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Infant Mortality Rate

Although the infant mortality rate has fluctuated somewhat over the last decade, the rates for both Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties were similar to the statewide rate in the most recent period. The statewide infant mortality rate (measured per 1,000 live births) has declined slowly since 2012, and has remained stable at the most recent rate of 6.1 since 2014. The Lackawanna County infant mortality rate declined to 6.2 in 2016-2018, reaching the lowest point over the time period analyzed. The infant mortality rate in Luzerne County has been steadily increasing since 2013 to 6.3 in the most recent period. The fluctuation in the infant mortality rates does not indicate a specific trend upward or downward in the two-county region.

Infant Mortality Rate (per 1,000 Live Births)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Suicide Rate

In 2019, the age-adjusted suicide rate in Lackawanna County declined to 14.3, after reaching a peak of 25.0 the previous year. The rate in Luzerne County has declined slightly since 2017 to the most recent rate of 18.4. There has been a large degree of fluctuation in rates for both Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. The rate in Luzerne County has exceeded the statewide rate for all years analyzed, while Lackawanna County’s rate is in line with the statewide rate in the most recent period, following sharp fluctuations in prior years.

Suicide Deaths (Age Adjusted Rate per 100,000)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Alcohol and Tobacco

Many chronic health conditions are linked with related health factors such as behaviors and lifestyles. Smoking and alcohol use are associated with heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure – among other issues. Both factors analyzed here have been more prevalent in the three-county area (Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties) than in the Commonwealth as a whole for the majority of periods.

The rate of cigarette smoking in the region increased slightly to 24 percent in 2017-2019, following a decline in the prior period. The region has consistently had a higher proportion of adult cigarette smokers compared with the Commonwealth as a whole, with the average rate four percentage points higher than the statewide average – 23 percent compared with 19 percent – over the period from 2013-2019.

The percentage of adults engaging in excessive drinking in the region (9 percent) continues to exceed the statewide rate of 6 percent, following a sharp increase in 2016-2018. The statewide rate has consistently stood at six percent in each of the years analyzed. The regional share has exceeded this statewide rate for three of the five time periods analyzed. Excessive drinking is defined as two or more alcoholic drinks daily on average for men and one or more alcoholic drinks daily on average for women.

Adult Tobacco Smoking

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Adult Excessive Drinking

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Drug Overdose Death Rate

The rates of drug overdose deaths (per 100,000 people) have declined in both Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties since 2015 while increasing in Pennsylvania by just over one-third during the same period. Luzerne County has consistently had the highest overdose death rate of the three areas, although its rate of drug overdose deaths has declined since 2017. The drug overdose death rate in Lackawanna County declined sharply in 2019, reaching its lowest point over the past five years.

Fentanyl was the drug most commonly associated with overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2018, having been reported in 70 percent of cases – up from 67 percent the year before. It was followed by heroin (identified in 35 percent of overdose deaths), cocaine (33 percent), and benzodiazepines (28 percent).

Abuse of opioid drugs such as fentanyl and heroin sometimes begins with abuse of prescription opioids. In recent years, the rate of opioid prescription has decreased annually in all three regions. The prescription rate fell by 38 percent in Pennsylvania and Lackawanna County from 2015 to 2019, while declining 45 percent in Luzerne County. Despite a declining trend in the prescription rate in Lackawanna County, the rate of opioid prescription (72.9) was the fourth highest in the state, and continues to exceed the state average. The declining trend in the prescription rate in Luzerne County has mirrored the statewide trend since 2015, and the most recent rate of 51 is now more in line with the statewide average of 47.

Drug Overdose Death Rate (per 100,000 people)

Source: DEA & University of Pittsburgh Analysis of data from County Coroners & Medical Examiners. “Drug-Related Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania” Sept. 2019

Opioid Prescribing Rate (per 100 people)

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Hospitals

Hospital data in 2016 through 2019 differs from previous years due to changes in reporting by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and a transition from fiscal year to calendar year reporting.

There are 12 hospitals in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties, including general hospitals, specialty hospitals, and federal hospitals. Among them, the daily room rate for a private room is $2,273 in Lackawanna County and $2,050 in Luzerne County. In both areas, the rate has grown substantially over the years analyzed. This includes an increase of 17 percent in daily rate for a private room in Lackawanna County from 2018 to 2019.

The number of general hospital beds in proportion to the population has remained relatively consistent in both counties, with 3.3 beds per 1,000 residents in Lackawanna County and 2.7 beds per 1,000 residents in Luzerne County.

Emergency room visits declined slightly in Lackawanna County in 2019, following steady growth since 2013-2014. Conversely, emergency room visits in Luzerne County increased six percent in 2019 after declining slightly since 2014-2015. In the years analyzed, the percentage of visits resulting in inpatient admission has fallen by 3.5 percentage points in Lackawanna County and 2.4 percentage points in Luzerne County. Though this rate is not an exact indicator of ER overutilization, this trend may suggest that ER visits for non-emergent cases is an ongoing and perhaps still growing issue in the region.

Hospitals

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Total HospitalsBeds Per 1,000
Lackawanna53.3
Luzerne72.7

Emergency Room Visits

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Long Term Care Facilities

The number of nursing homes in Pennsylvania has shown a slow decreasing trend since 2016, while remaining stable in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. The number of beds per 1,000 residents aged 65 years and older has declined in both Luzerne County and statewide in the most recent period, while increasing in Lackawanna County. Both counties have more beds per 1,000 seniors than the state overall.

The daily room rates at long-term care facilities in Lackawanna County are lower than rates statewide and in Luzerne County. In addition, the rates in Lackawanna County have increased at a slower overall rate of 3 percent since 2016-2017, compared to an increase of 17 percent in Lackawanna County and 18 percent statewide.

Long Term Care Facilities

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Nursing HomesBeds Per 1,000
Lackawanna1855.6
Luzerne2543.6
Pennsylvania69236.7

Teen Pregnancy

Data for 2019 was not released by Pennsylvania Department of Health in time for inclusion in this year’s Indicators report. Over the decade analyzed, Pennsylvania reported generally decreasing rates of teen pregnancies. Teen pregnancies are defined here as pregnancies among females aged 15 to 17 years.

Both counties experienced significant improvement from 2009 to 2018 – a 57.5 percent drop in the rate of teen pregnancy in Lackawanna County and a 39 percent drop in Luzerne County.
The statewide rate has declined as well since 2009. In recent years, Luzerne County has frequently had a teen pregnancy rate significantly higher than the statewide rate.

Teen Pregnancy Rate (crude rate per 1,000)

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Health Insurance

The percentage of the population with health insurance coverage in Pennsylvania has remained relatively stable since 2016, following steady increases in coverage since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In both Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties and statewide, just over 94 percent of the population was covered by health insurance in 2019. There was a slight decline in coverage in Lackawanna County from 96.3 percent in 2017. While the percentage of the population with private health insurance has been slowly declining since 2016, the amount with public health insurance coverage has increased regionally and statewide. In Lackawanna County, 42.8 percent of the population reported having public health insurance coverage in 2019. The rate was slightly higher in Luzerne County, reaching 44.7 percent in 2019. Both counties exceed the statewide rate of 37.6 percent. Those with public health insurance coverage increased nearly 11 percentage points in Lackawanna County from 2010, and almost nine percentage points in Luzerne County. In both counties, the percent of residents without health insurance coverage increased in 2019, reaching 5.7 percent in Lackawanna County and 5.9 percent in Luzerne County, which is similar to the statewide rate of 5.8 percent. Regionally, the uninsured rate for children under age 18 continues to be lower than the statewide rate of 4.6 percent, although the rate increased in both counties in 2019.

Enrollment in health plans offered through the Healthcare.gov marketplace have continued to decline regionally and statewide. In Lackawanna County, the number of enrollees has declined by 18 percent since 2017, while declining 22 percent in Luzerne County and statewide. In 2020, there were about 13,500 total enrollees in the two counties, compared to nearly 17,000 in 2017.

The number of people enrolled in HealthChoices, the managed care program for Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance program, has increased 9 percent statewide since 2017, and 14 percent in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. There were over 130,000 enrollees in HealthChoices in both counties combined, representing five percent of the statewide enrollment.

Percentage With No Health Insurance Coverage

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey