Rockland, Westchester and Putnam are among the top 10 healthiest counties in New York State in terms of both longevity and healthy behaviors, according to the 2011 County Health Rankings report, released on Wednesday.
The annual report, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Health Institute, compares the overall health of counties in every state in the country. The report measures health outcomes such as mortality and birth rates, and examines how factors such as education, income, environmental factors, obesity, tobacco use and other behaviors influence the health of a community.
Putnam County ranked number one out of 62 counties in terms of health outcomes and number five for positive health factors. Westchester County ranked ninth for health outcomes and second for health factors, and Rockland County was number five for health outcomes and number six for health factors.
“The Rankings really show us with solid data that there is a lot more to health than health care. Where we live, learn, work and play affect our health, and we need to use the information from the Rankings to shine a spotlight on where we need to improve so we can take action to address our problems,” Patrick Remington, director of the County Health Rankings project and associate dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a press release.
Putnam County ranked highest in the state for social and economic factors that contribute to good health—those include a 90 percent high school graduation rate, a relatively low unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, only 5 percent of children in poverty, and a very low crime rate of 83 violent crimes per 100,000 population.
Rockland County’s adult smoking rate of 9.5 percent is lowest in the state. The county also made progress in terms of physical environment, including air quality and access to healthy foods, moving from number 29 last year to eighth this year.
Joan Facelle, Rockland County’s health commissioner, said the county received a grant from the New York State Department of Health to establish programs to prevent obesity, diabetes and other chronic illness in high-risk communities.
Westchester ranked number four for mortality rate, based on the number of years lost before age 75; but the county was lower on the list at number 20 for morbidity rate. Cheryl Archbald, Westchester County’s acting health commissioner, said that low birth rate was a major factor in the morbidity rate.
“Communities of color have a higher percentage of infant mortality, low birth weight and delayed or no prenatal care,” Archbald said. “With a grant from the state we will launch a new Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby program this year to connect pregnant women to early prenatal care and health insurance to improve birth outcomes.’’