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Bureau County: 25th out of 102

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on health concerns and statistics in Bureau County.

PRINCETON — Bureau County residents are healthy, but maybe not quite as healthy as last year.

According to a study released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bureau County is ranked as the 25th healthiest of Illinois’ 102 counties. Last year, Bureau County was ranked slightly higher, at the 23rd healthiest. However, Bureau County is definitely on an overall healthier trend; the county ranked 34th two years ago in 2010.

The national study, titled, “American Health Rankings,” ranks each state and county in the country according to a variety of health measures, including health behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco use, diet and exercise; clinical care quality and availability; social and economic factors, including education, employment and income; and physical environment. The counties are then ranked relative to the health of other counties in the same state.

Looking at some of the specifics for Bureau County, the study shows 14 percent of Bureau County residents as in poor or fair health, compared to the national benchmark of 10 percent and the statewide benchmark of 16 percent. The study also lists 28 percent of Bureau County adults as obese, compared to the national level of 25 percent and the statewide level of 27 percent. The study shows an excessive drinking rate of 16 percent for Bureau County, compared to 8 percent nationally and 19 percent statewide. The uninsured in Bureau County are ranked at 12 percent, compared to 11 percent nationwide and 15 percent statewide. Inadequate social support for Bureau County is ranked at 16 percent, compared to 14 percent nationwide and 21 percent statewide.

The healthiest counties in Illinois are (in order): Kendall, Woodford, DuPage, Mercer and McHenry. Of Bureau County’s neighbors, Henry County ranked 12th; Lee County, 32nd; Putnam County, 37th; Whiteside County, 38th; Stark County, 45th; LaSalle County, 66th; and Marshall County, at 89th.

On Friday, Hector Gomez, assistant administrator for the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, said the local health department does not work directly with the American Health Rankings, but the agency could collect their information from a variety of sources, including statistics from health departments. The rankings can be used not only statewide but also locally to evaluate health-related strengths and weaknesses of counties and communities, he said.

“Here, at the health department, we would use the information to show what the local issues are and what we need to do to help our people live healthier lives,” Gomez said.

Looking ahead to the near future, Gomez said the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department will use the rankings information as the health department works this spring to update the county’s IPLAN (Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs). A community-based committee is being put into place to determine and then prioritize specific health needs in the county and to make plans to address those needs, Gomez said.

More information on Bureau County’s health ranking is available on the County Health Rankings website at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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