WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Westchester County was named the seventh healthiest county in New York State in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 2013 County Health Rankings , which were released Wednesday morning.
Livingston County ranked first, while Putnam County came in at four.
Entering its fourth year, the County Health Rankings is a collaborative program between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. They annually rank the health of nearly every county in the nation, in an effort to illustrate that much of what affects health occurs outside of the doctor’s office.
“These rankings are quickly becoming the groundwork for decision makers in this country as a template to help build a better culture of health,” said Assistant Vice President of RWJF Michelle Larkin in a Wednesday morning teleconference.
Some highlights of Westchester County’s overall rankings include placing third in New York State’s mortality, 29th in morbidity, seventh in clinical care, seventh in social and economic factors, and eighth in physical environment.
Perhaps the most positive detail of Westchester’s health rankings was that of health behaviors, where it ranked first overall in the state.
This category focused on factors such as adult smoking (14 percent), adult obesity (14 percent), physical inactivity (19 percent), excessive drinking (17 percent), motor vehicle crash death rate (5 incidences), sexually transmitted infections (307) and teen birth rate (18).
However, as the rankings show, many categories factor into a county’s health, not just one.
“This is essentially a one-stop shopping look at every county’s health,” said Associate Dean for Public Health of Wisconsin Population Health Institute Patrick Remington in the teleconference.
“You’ll see how much jobs, education and the safety of where you live contribute to a county’s ranking,” he said.
Remington said that a new aspect of the 2013 rankings is national trends of concern, which include child poverty (which at over 20 percent, has not changed since 2000), water quality and the amount of dentists across the country.
“Oral health is one that catches people by surprise,” he said.
Westchester has a 1,048:1 residents-to-dentist ratio , placing third in New York State.
One take away from County Health Rankings across the board is how much socio-economic trends can determine a county’s wellbeing. It is up to local governments to figure out the right balance for each community, said Larkin.
“The great thing about these rankings is it allows counties to look at the rankings of counties surrounding them,” she said. “If the county right next to you is ranked much higher than you are, you probably are asking, ‘Why is that county doing so much better than we are?’ It’s up to each city—each county—to find its own levers.”
New York State ranked 18th nationwide in the 2012 State Health Rankings .
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