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Published on April 01, 2015

DeKalb County Ranks Among the Healthiest in Illinois

April 1, 2015

DeKalb County ranked as one of the healthier counties in Illinois according to the annual County Health Rankings recently released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.  “Since the County Health Rankings began in Wisconsin more than a decade ago, we’ve seen them serve as a rallying point for change,” said Karen Timberlake, director of UWPHI in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Communities are using the Rankings to inform their priorities as they work to improve health for all their residents.”

DeKalb County ranks #11 for health outcomes and # 25 for health factors out of 102 counties in Illinois, according to Jane Lux, Public Health Administrator at the DeKalb County Health Department.  Health outcomes are based on measures of length and quality of life.  Health factors are based on a combination of four major factors that influence health outcomes including: health behaviors, clinical care, social & economic factors, and physical environment. 

“The goal of the health department is to improve health in our community, and we know that we cannot do this alone. The health of a community depends on many factors, including individual behaviors, health care, education, jobs, income level and the environment.  Improving health takes collaboration among partners including public health, health care, community organizations, business, education and government sectors, as well as each individual.  By recognizing the factors that influence the health of the community, we can work together to create programs, environments and policies that will help people lead healthier lives,” states Lux.    

Nationally, this year’s Rankings show that the healthiest counties in each state have higher college attendance, fewer preventable hospital stays, and better access to parks and gyms than the least healthy counties. The least healthy counties in each state have more smokers, more teen births, and more alcohol-related car crash deaths. This year’s Rankings also look at the links between income levels, income distribution, and health.

While DeKalb County ranks high overall, we are monitoring the Health Factors that determine how long and how well we will live in the future according to Lux.  For some of the measures, trends help guide our assessment.  For example, as in many counties throughout the nation, the trend for adult obesity is getting worse.  The percentage of adult smoking is higher in DeKalb County than in the state.  A new social and economic factor this year is income inequality, the ratio of household income at the 80th percentile to income at the 20th percentile.  The measure for DeKalb County is higher than both the state and the US, at 5.2.  Income inequality has been shown to negatively impact health outcomes.

The information from the County Health Rankings is consistent with our community health needs assessment and plan.  “We will continue to prioritize healthy eating, physical activity, reduction of tobacco use and exposure, and decreasing health disparities in collaboration with our partners to improve the health of DeKalb County, “said Lux. 

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