Study pinpoints most and least healthy counties in each state
If you’re trying to find the healthiest U.S. counties, St. Louis County, Mo., isn’t one of them. St. Louis County has one of the country’s highest incidences of sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000 residents (1,213), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
And certainly don’t look at Fresno County, Calif. The city of Fresno recently was crowned “America’s Drunkest City” by Men’s Health magazine, which panned Fresno’s national rankings for deaths from liver disease (second) and for drunken driving crashes (16th).
|Burlington, Vt., is one of the healthiest areas of the country, according to a new study.|
Instead, look at a place like Chittenden County, Vt., where fewer than 15 percent of the adults smoke, or Benton County, Ore., which had no air pollution ozone days in 2010. Burlington is the biggest city in Chittenden County, and Corvallis is the biggest city in Benton County.
A study by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Health Institute indicates which counties in the United States were the healthiest and which ones needed some work on their health. To find out how your county stacked up, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.
The study is based on such factors as residents’ health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use, unsafe sex); access to and quality of health care; social and economic status (education, employment, income, family and social support, community safety); and physical environment (environmental quality, “built” environment).
The study ranked 3,016 U.S. counties. Results showed the top through the bottom counties within a state; however, state-to-state comparisons weren’t made.
Thus, Chittenden County was the healthiest county in Vermont and Benton County was the healthiest county in Oregon, according to the study. When pressed, one of the study’s authors, Patrick Remington, the University of Wisconsin’s associate dean for public health, told InsuranceQuotes.com that Chittenden was among the country’s healthiest counties.
The study also showed differences in the health of residents who live just a few miles apart. For instance, Kendall (Oswego) was the healthiest of the 102 counties in Illinois, while neighboring LaSalle County (Ottawa) — where smoking rates are double the national average — was ranked 65th.
Remington says differences in the education levels of residents and proximity to high-paying jobs can influence a county’s ranking. “A smart community will know how to take care of itself,” he says.
Jenny Barrie, a spokeswoman for LaSalle County’s health department, told The Associated Press that local authorities are continuing with recently introduced programs to distribute nicotine patches to smokers and to boost awareness about diabetes and obesity.
“This has been a wake-up call,” Remington says of the study. “We are now finding that people are more interested in moving from, ‘OK, we’ve got a problem’ to ‘What do we do about it?’”