National study puts Chesco at top of state rankings
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Less than two weeks before the county prepares to celebrate National Public Health Week starting on April 1, it has received good news on its own well-being: a national ranking as the healthiest county in Pennsylvania.
The study, released Wednesday by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, placed Chester County at the top of a number of categories, including health factors that include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment, a county news release said.
The 2013 “County Health Rankings” study, a collection of 50 reports, reflect the overall health of counties in every state across the nation. Now in its fourth year, the study offers counties a snapshot of how healthy their residents are by comparing their overall health and the factors that influence their health, with other counties in their state, the release said.
“This recognition demonstrates that Chester County is a community ahead of the curve,” said County Commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello. “The leadership of our Health Department, the network of hospitals, health-care providers, health clinics, social service-related non-profit organizations, and our environmental stewardship and recreational resources all point to an extraordinary conclusion – Chester County is the best living environment for residents in the state.”
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone agreed that the county’s well-established and well-managed Health Department played a pivotal role in the study results. “Many of our citizens and organizations look to the Chester County Health Department to provide a wide range of services – from treatment, prevention and education on health issues, to a strong environmental component that includes water and well testing, restaurant inspections, and food handler training,” she said.
The results marked the second time Chester County has led the state rankings by earning top ratings in two categories. In 2010, it was ranked number one for Health Factors, which represents what influences the health of the county, as well as Health Outcomes, the assessment of the county’s health; in 2011, it received a top rating just for Health Factors, and in 2012, it earned top honors only for Health Outcomes, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokeswoman.
The report is designed to allow counties to determine where they are doing well and where they need to improve. Chester County’s top ranking was announced right after 40-plus county organizations completed a countywide community health assessment and just as they are embarking on a plan to address identified issues, the release said.
Commissioner Terence Farrell noted that the county is working to “ensure a high percentage of Chester County businesses” duplicate the county’s success with its employee wellness programs. “Our own county government wellness program has helped us to achieve significant savings on the cost of health-care benefits for our employees, and other businesses – large and small – are starting to follow our lead,” he said.
Details of the 2013 “County Health Rankings” report are posted on the Chester Health Department website, www.chesco.org/health.