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Sullivan health still poor; County health rankings unveiled

Carol Ryan, director of Sullivan County Public Health, discusses Sullivan’s poor showing in county health rankings.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
April 10, 2013

“If you look at the county health rankings and go on the website (www.countyhelathrankings.org), look at any county you want, or any county in any state, and you will always see consistently where the income is highest the health outcomes are best. That’s what is directly correlated, poverty leads to poor health.”

Carol Ryan, director of Sullivan County Public Health, was talking to county legislators about the national county health rankings, which were published last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

For an overall health score, Sullivan ranked 61 out of 62 New York counties, or next to last. Part of the reason for the dismal ranking for the second year in a row is that the county has the highest number of premature deaths per capita—deaths that occur before age 75. The younger the age of the people who die, the heavier the impact the death has on the rating.

Ryan said that Sullivan has a high number of young deaths due to drugs and car accidents and that is why the premature death rating is so high.

The rankings were taken from a three-year average ending in 2009, so even if the county is improving, it would not show up for another couple of years. However, in some areas the trends do not look encouraging. For instance, the incidence of adult obesity is moving upward, with more than 25% of adults in the county considered obese as of 2009.

Ulster County fared a bit better than Sullivan with a premature death ranking of 38 out of 62 counites, with an overall health ranking of 32, and obesity at about 25% of the adult population and growing.

In Orange County, the premature death ranking is 25 out of 62 counites, with an overall heath ranking is 22, and about 25% of the adult population is obese.

In Wayne County, PA, the premature death ranking is 24 out of 67 Pennsylvania counties, with an overall health ranking is 30, and 28% of adults are obese.

Pike County, PA, is the healthiest of those listed in our region, with a premature death ranking of nine, and overall health ranking of 11, but also with the highest adult obesity ranking of 31%.