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March 26. 2014 2:26PM

Report ranks Rockingham County as healthiest county in state

Rockingham County once again ranks as the healthiest county in New Hampshire, with Coos County at the opposite end of the spectrum as the least healthy, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings, released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI).

The rankings, available at www.countyhealthrankings.org, look at every county in the United States. This year’s rankings include a snapshot of each county in New Hampshire with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. Researchers looked at the length and quality of life to determine health outcomes. Health factors include measures of health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

The survey takes into account not just medical issues but wider measures of social health such as having farmer’s markets, and the length of people’s commute.

"This report emphasizes that where you live can have a direct impact on your health," said Dr. José Montero, director of public health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services in a release announcing the results of the rankings. "We know the specific factors that can shorten someone’s life, such as smoking and poor diet, but we often fail to realize the other factors that can contribute to our longevity, such as access to and the quality of health care, how walkable neighborhoods are, how clean our air and water are, and how safe the community is where we live. Here in New Hampshire, there is some exciting work being done to help make changes in public health at the local and regional levels, such as the State Health Improvement Plan and the Public Health Advisory Councils in our 13 public health regions."

In New Hampshire, Rockingham and Grafton counties were the top two, while Hillsborough County ranked third. Coos County was last.

New Hampshire fared well when compared to the nation as a whole. Hillsborough County places in the top 10 percent of counties nationwide in most categories.

The collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit group that concentrates on health issues, and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute measured 35 factors. These included smoking rates, obesity, babies with low birth weight, alcohol-impaired driving deaths and people reporting “poor mental health days." Other factors were related to health care, including the number of primary care physicians and dentists, and preventable hospital stays.


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