Vermilion, Champaign hold steady in health rankings
An annual survey of the health of the nation's counties holds little surprise for Jenny Trimmell.
The administrator of the Vermilion County Health Department, Trimmell said her county's ranking near the bottom of the state — changed little from the previous year — partly reflects social and economic factors "that are hard to break."
"People are working at all those things, but it just takes time to change those things," Trimmell said.
Vermilion County ranked 95th among the state's 102 counties, up one notch from the previous year, in the annual County Health Rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Champaign County's state ranking remained unchanged at 23rd.
The rankings reflect how well counties throughout the U.S. are doing on 29 overall health factors, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity. teen births, access to health care and healthy foods, air quality and percentage of children living in poverty.
In Illinois, Woodford County was ranked the healthiest, and Alexander County was at the bottom of the heap.
"I was not surprised to see that we had not made much movement from last year to this year, because we have some big obstacles that we have to overcome," Trimmell said.
One factor that improved for Vermilion County, she said, were a slight increase in the high school graduation rate, but the county also saw rises in single-parent households, obesity, violent crime and sexually transmitted diseases.
"I know that organizations within our community are working every day trying to impact some of these health behaviors, but some of these are going to take years to turn around," Trimmell said.
Some factors contributing to Champaign County's ranking: It scored lower than the state average on the number of poor mental and physical health days and premature deaths, teen births, adult smoking, adult obesity, physical inactivity and (despite Unofficial) excessive drinking. It ranked higher than the state average on mammography screening and high school graduations.
Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, continued to say — as in years past — that this study is just one measure used to look at health, "but we really focus more on local statistics."
Pryde said she hadn't seen this year's study, but points out some factors that make Champaign County a healthier place to live include increasing interest in workplace wellness and good cooperation at the leadership level making the community walking- and bicycle-friendly.
The health district also promotes no-smoking policies and education, and "our smoking cessation classes are crammed," Pryde said.
With some environmental factors weighing in, such as interstate highways and industry impacting air quality, it's unlikely Champaign County will ever be tops on this particular list of counties, Pryde said.
However, she adds, "I really am extremely proud of Champaign County, I really am,"
Here's a look at how area counties stack up statewide in this year's County Health Rankings and Roadmaps study. The lower the number, the better the overall health of the county, compared to others in Illinois.
See all the data for your county in this year's health rankings: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org