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County Health Rankings Released; Kings County Still Near the Bottom

The Brooklyn District Public Health Office says is actively addressing needs, making changes

The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Project on Tuesday released its 2012 ranking of residential health, and Kings County, which covers all of Brooklyn, ranked in the bottom 87th percentile — coming in at number 54 out of 62 New York State counties surveyed.

Putnam County in upstate New York ranked first and Bronx County in New York City ranked last. The study was conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study looked at various statistics, including high school graduation rates, access to health foods, air pollution, income, as well as rates of obesity, smoking and teen pregnancy.

The study found those living in the lowest ranked counties had significantly lower high school graduation rates, more than twice the national level of children living in poverty, fewer grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and higher rates of unemployment.

Patrick Remington, M.D., MPH, director of the County Health Rankings project and Associate Dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said the rankings are proof that medical care is not the only important factor in keeping a county healthy.

“The results of this study are a more complete view of about how we promote health through our communities, schools and work places,” Remington said. “The rankings really show us that our health is affected by much more than what happens in the doctor’s office; it shows us that where we live, work and socialize can play a big role in our health.”

For individual health outcomes, Kings County ranked 44 out of 62 counties in mortality rate, but 60 out of 62 counties in morbidity — meaning the county is only two ranks below the bottom for its rates of illness and disease.

The county ranked 59 out of 62 for physical, which accounts for air pollution, recreational facilities and access to healthy foods. And the county ranked 57 out of 62 for clinical care, which includes hospitalization, as well as preventative health care, such as diabetes, mammogram and HIV screenings.

According to the Brooklyn District Public Health Office of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Brooklyn has made tremendous progress toward increasing awareness, as well as the choices residents have to improve their own health, including new healthy bodega food initiatives and increased accessed to testing and preventative care.

Still, the office acknowledges, Brooklyn’s rank on the list is evidence that there’s a lot more work to do.

“Especially in high-poverty areas, which are disproportionally represented by African Americans and Latinos,” said , assistant commissioner at the Brooklyn District Public Health Office in Bed-Stuy.

“With our district public health office located here in Central Brooklyn, we are specifically working with our community boards and the Department of Transportation to provide more awareness and opportunities to cycle and walk safely in our neighborhoods to help reduce obesity and promote physical fitness.”

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of RWJF, said that since they first began releasing the rankings three years ago, they have noticed more and more health agencies, businesses and community organizations working in partnership to shape their community’s overall health culture. And that’s the point of the rankings.

“The good news is that businesses, health care providers, government, consumers and community leaders are already joining forces in communities across the nation to change some of the gaps that the Rankings highlight.” 

“We are truly committed to working with our community partners which include many community based organizations, faith institutions, and schools to name a few to reduce health disparities and improve the health of Brooklyn residents,” said Dr. Maybank.

Those efforts can be seen in the recent grand opening of a new, state-of-the-art Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center, a $26 million project and a successful collaboration of General Electric and its Developing Health Program, NBCU volunteers, churches, community health partners and several elected officials.

Also recently, the Brooklyn Public Health office brought together residents in the neighborhood, including those living in NYCHA Housing, for a serious discussion on infant mortality.

The two groups talked extensively about big and small ways they can begin building lifestyle habits that will help keep their infants, healthier, happier and, most importantly, out of that $26 million state-of-the art doctor’s office.

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