A new report examining the health of residents in counties across the United States shows that in Western New England some of the healthiest areas are adjacent to some that are least healthy.
There are 14 counties in Massachusetts. According to the study, Hampshire is the 5th healthiest, while Hampden is ranked 14th. Bridget Catlin, who directed the “County Health Rankings and Roadmap” project with the University of Wisconsin and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says urban and rural areas continue to have the most health problems, including higher rates of smoking, physical inactivity, children living in poverty and unemployment.
“The places that tend to be the healthiest are suburban.”
Catlin and her team calculated the rankings based on data from the census, Medicare claims, and a national telephone survey conducted by federal health officials. They considered diet, exercise, sexual activity, smoking and even local restaurants. Catlin says education and income have the strongest correlations with health.
“Probably the strongest factor in health is income, or it’s poverty. In order to be able to make healthy choices, in order to have access to health insurance, these factors are tied very closely to income levels.”
This is the first time the study has been conducted nationally, and will become an annual publication, Catlin says. In Connecticut, Tolland County was the healthiest, while New Haven was the least healthy of 8 counties. And in Vermont, Chittenden County ranked healthiest county while Essex County in the rural Northeast Kingdom was named the least healthy of 14 counties.