Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert this week announced that Rockland County has been ranked first in New York State for healthy living in 2015. The annual report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute recognized the county’s coordinated efforts aimed at healthy eating and an active lifestyle that lead to a unified community commitment to better health.

“This recognition reaffirms the upward trajectory of Rockland’s innovative efforts to improve the health and fitness of our residents,” said County Executive Day. “Through ambitious education and promotion initiatives, we are working together to live healthier lives, make healthier choices and keep health care costs down, ensuring that our county remains a top destination to raise a family or invest in a business.”

“The report demonstrates that Rockland residents are living more healthy lives. It reflects the great strides our County is making, the high priority placed on our residents’ health and our successful partnerships with community and faith organizations, health care providers, schools, worksites, and municipalities to promote a healthy and safe Rockland County. We are committed to continue to work to improve the health of all of our residents,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County Commissioner of Health.

The 2015 County Health Rankings allow counties to determine how well they’re doing on 30 factors that influence health, including percent of people who report being in poor physical and mental health, percent of low birth weight babies, smoking and obesity rates, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, sexually transmitted infections, access to health care and unemployment and education levels. Report researchers examine the many factors that influence health and allow people to compare the overall health of their county with the health of the rest of the counties in the state.

Rockland County is ranked first in overall health in New York State, up from third place last year. The county remains sixth in New York State for estimate of future health. Counties are ranked according to their current overall health (called health outcomes) and the estimate of future health (called health factors).

The county is also ranked first in the state for health behaviors. It continues to have the lowest adult smoking rate in New York State (9 percent in the Rankings report), demonstrating the impact of comprehensive efforts like the Put It Out Rockland tobacco prevention, education, and cessation program enacted in 2001.

Rockland is ranked second in the state for the length of life health outcome. The Rankings show the County is continuing to reduce the years of potential life lost by our residents before age 75 and is showing great improvement in reducing the number of preventable hospital stays and increasing the number of residents with health insurance. The Rankings also show an increase in the percentage of screening for diabetes and female residents getting mammograms.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s rankings identify sexually transmitted infections (STI) as an area for improvement. This is also a primary focus of the County’s 2014-2017 Community Health Improvement Plan. Meantime, the Department of Health will continues to raise awareness of the importance of screening for STI’s, educate residents about how to protect themselves and their partners, and support the health provider community with effective diagnosis and treatment guidelines. The Rankings also show that social and economic factors like unemployment can impact health, and there is still more work to be done to protect our children from living in poverty.

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