Reading Eagle (03.20.13)
On March 20, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released a report evaluating Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The report concluded that a person’s overall health is strongly linked to where in Pennsylvania one lives, and found that Philadelphia was the unhealthiest county while nearby Chester was the healthiest in the state. The report based rankings on more than 24 factors, including healthy behavior markers such as smoking and obesity, plus social and economic factors like healthcare access, education, family support, violent crime, and unemployment. For the first time in 3 years, Berks County's overall health ranking dropped 3 spots to 17th best for health outcomes, which includes morbidity and mortality rates. Berks County did improve 5 spots to 21st best for health factors regarding the rates of alcohol use, smoking, access to care, and other social and economic factors.
Philadelphia has much higher rates than its three adjacent counties for STDs, teen births, smoking and obesity rates, high school dropouts, uninsured residents, violent crime, and single-parent homes. Dr. James S. Marks of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation declared that the two Pennsylvania counties—Philadelphia, which is urban and unhealthiest, and Chester, which is suburban and healthiest—is not unusual, saying that “social and economic factors are the most powerful (health) predictors."
Union, Centre, Cumberland, and Snyder counties in central Pennsylvania make up the top five healthiest counties. The report ranks the five unhealthiest counties as Philadelphia, Fayette, Greene, Sullivan, and Forest, which fare worse than state averages in single-parent households, child poverty, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Among the most significant county-to-county differences was the rate of the STD chlamydia: Philadelphia had the most cases, with 1,273 cases per 100,000 residents. Dauphin County was next highest with 574, while Bedford County was lowest with 46. The statewide average was 374 per 100,000.
Dr. Patrick L. Remington of the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health declared that, "We all have a stake in creating a healthier community, and no single sector alone can tackle the health challenges in any given community."