Madison County is the 16th-healthiest county in New York state, according to rankings released Wednesday by the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health Project.
The project, a collaborative effort between Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranked counties in each state based on factors like mortality, morbidity, health behaviors, assess to and quality of clinical care, social and economic conditions and physical environment.
Madison county ranked 16th in New York while surrounding counties were significantly lower on the list. Oneida County ranked 53rd among the state’s 62 counties, while Onondaga was 40th, Oswego was 41st, Cortland was 51st, Chenango was 36th and Otsego was 32nd. Putnam County proved to be the healthiest in the state, followed by Saratoga and Schuyler counties. Bronx County was the most unhealthy of the state’s 62 counties.
Rankings were based on data sources from vital statistics, sexually transmitted disease rates, Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System survey data, Medicare claims data, American Community Survey (social and economic variables) and data on violent crime.
“There are a lot of good reasons to live in Madison County,” said Madison County Public Health Department Director Eric Faisst. “I like to believe that people love living here; they like living in Madison County. They like everything about Madison County and I think that adds to your mental health. When you enjoy being someplace, you tend to be a little healthier.”
Faisst also attributed the county’s high ranking to its public health system of hospitals, providers and non-profit organizations that work well together and coordinate services.
“That facilitates those people being able to get everything from the health care they need, to the information they need to live healthier lives,” he said.
The county’s rural setting is also conducive to good health, as there are more physical activities to do outdoors, coupled with less pollution.
There are still areas in need of improvement, Faisst said, pointing specifically to smoking and obesity.
“We have a community that has the ability to address those issues,” he said. “One of the things we do well is that we work together.”
The county health ranking provides an essential resource for tracking the county’s progress, he said.
“I always ask the question, ‘Are we making a difference?’” Faisst said. “Are we becoming healthier?”
Before this report, there as no way to gauge that, he said. Indicators like crime rates, an area that the health department doesn’t address, “demonstrates that health is more than just going to the doctor,” he said. “It’s more than just the health department doing its programs. It’s insuring the conditions in which people can be healthy and it takes the whole community.”
While only about 12 percent of a person’s health can be affected by a doctor, health is largely determined by environment and genetics. Focusing on the things that cause disease is a vital part of the county’s comprehensive community health assessment that questions “What does a healthy Madison County look like?”
Oneida County Health Department Director Dr. Gayle Jones said the county’s 53rd-place ranking will be used “as a tool to work with our community health assessment to focus and improve our community’s health.”
“The purpose of the report is to increase the community’s awareness of our health status and motivate the community to respond because the health of the county overall is the responsibility of all residents,” she said.
Jones called the ranking fair, based on “acceptable” information and stressed that the biggest struggles the county faces are awareness and education.
“You don’t expect people to change things that they don’t understand,” she said. “So for us, a lot of it is getting people to understand how these different components actually impact health. Your health is not just based on you seeing a doctor annually. There are so many more components to overall health and being in good health.”
For full rankings, visit:
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