Lake County ranks 13th healthiest in Illinois - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Lake County ranks 13th healthiest in Illinois

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LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Lake County ranked as the 13th healthiest county in Illinois last year, up from a ranking of 16th the year before.

A public health report card that grades the health of America's counties, developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranked Lake County 13th out of 102 counties in Illinois on health outcomes measured by length of life and quality of life.

Lake County ranked seventh on health factors measured by health behaviors, clinical care, socio/economic factors and physical environment.

In 2012, Lake County ranked 16th on health outcomes and fifth on health factors.

"We are pleased to be ranked as the 13th healthiest county in the state," said Chief Timothy Sashko, president of the Lake County Board of Health. "The fact that we moved from 16th last year to 13th this year shows we are making progress."

Lake County had high marks in a number of health behavior areas, including smoking. With regard to adult smoking, Lake County is doing better than the national average. The report indicated that 14 percent of Lake County adults smoke, while the national average is 20 percent.

Over the years, the Health Department's Tobacco Free Lake County program has made significant progress in its efforts to promote smoking cessation. The program's REALITY Illinois teens continue to educate and advocate for tobacco-free choices. Their advocacy efforts resulted in the Lake County Forest Preserve District enacting a smoke-free playground ordinance at nine forest preserve locations last year.

"While we are pleased that Lake County is ranked the 13th healthiest county in the state, this report card also brings to light things that public health and the local community still need to work on to make this county healthier," said Tony Beltran, the Health Department's executive director.

One behavior area the Health Department is particularly focused on improving is the sexually-transmitted infections rate. In Lake County, the rate is 324 per 100,000 persons, up from 282 per 100,000 persons in 2012. The determining factor for this ranking was the rate of chlamydia cases, a sexually-transmitted illness that often presents no symptoms. There are several communities in Lake County where the STI rate is particularly high, and the Health Department is working to reduce this health disparity, officials said.

Another health behavior area that needs improvement is excessive drinking. In Lake County, the excessive drinking rate is 19 percent, whereas the national average is 15 percent. To address this concern, the Health Department's Prevention Services program is working with communities to reduce and prevent youth alcohol and substance abuse. Last year was the fifth year of the County Health Rankings, the most comprehensive report of its kind to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states by using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. The rankings helps everyone see that there is a direct correlation between where people live, learn, work and play and how healthy they are and how long they live, officials said.

"A community's health is vital to a good quality of life and is directly linked to economic health," said Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor. "Building a healthy and resilient community is a top strategic goal of the Lake County Board. This indicator helps us measure our progress and understand how we can continue to work with our partners to continue to improve the health of our community."

The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org/, which includes a snapshot of each county in Illinois with a color-coded map comparing each county's overall health ranking.

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