Counties across the state are taking a look at how they stack up health wise in the 2012 County Health Rankings. It compares the health and well being of different communities based upon everything from access to care and healthy foods to drinking and smoking habits. Our Amanda Kelley tells us how several North Country counties compare.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Burgers and fries. It's an affordable and easy to find dinner for many throughout the North Country, but it's also a contributing factor to why St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties are ranked among some of the unhealthiest across the state.
Jefferson County Public Health Planner Faith Lustik said, "It's really bad. We have a high smoking rate, we have also a high obesity rate which keeps climbing every year and in turn, we also have a high teen pregnancy rate."
According to County Health Rankings, Jefferson ranks second to last in health behaviors and falls at number 31 out of 62 overall. Nearby Lewis County ranks 18th and Oswego is 38th, while St. Lawrence is fourth from last. They're numbers that don't surprise many.
Fairgrounds Y Branch Director Tammie Miller said, "I don't think it's probably surprising, to anybody. We do have some issues, our unemployment, there's obviously the issues of our weather. Those are all barriers."
Health experts say it's important for community members to take these numbers and learn from them and hopefully take steps to improve their county's and their own personal health and fitness.
Lustik said, "People can do two things, they can improve their own individual health by not smoking, getting enough exercise, eating well, going to your doctor, things like that. But they can also take a role in their community and think about things we can do in the community to improve the health status."
Fitness facilities in Watertown say they work to offer something for just about anyone looking to improve their health.
Miller said, "We try to do information sessions with nutrition, organized races, and walks to get people out and about. We do diabetes assistance, we do weight loss, we do a wide variety of health and fitness for kids, families, adults. Anything that you can possibly imagine in different niches that will get people active."
But the real solution to improving health in the North Country you might not find at the gym.
Lustik said, "We need to improve our employment opportunities. People don't usually think of that as being part of a healthy community. If we have more employment, we have more people attending college, that will bring up the socioeconomics of the community."
Creating jobs might just create a healthier community.
One county that did have a good rating was Tompkins County, which can boast the second healthiest community in the state.
To take a look at all of the County Health Rankings, or to learn more about how you can improve your own personal health, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org or www.jcphs.org.