Residents in Whiteside County are getting healthier compared to other counties, while Lee County is not, according to a survey released this week.
Whiteside ranked 18th among 102 Illinois counties, an improvement from 38th last year, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Lee County, meanwhile, dropped from 32nd to 40th.
The study takes into account such factors as obesity, smoking, teen birth rates, children in poverty, and access to primary care doctors.
Whiteside County’s public health administrator, Beth Fiorini, said the county health department’s clinic in Rock Falls likely played a role in the county’s rise in the rankings. The county was ranked 47th in 2010.
One of three Sterling and Rock Falls residents, and one of five people countywide, uses the clinic, which opened in 2006, Fiorini reported.
“More people are getting access to health care that didn’t have it before,” she said.
Cathy Ferguson, Lee County’s public health administrator, said counties with smaller populations see substantial variations in some measures from year to year, which affects rankings.
“Because the rankings are not the best way to track improvement over time, since they are based on broad measures and in many cases multiple years of data in order to be valid, counties are encouraged to use their own local data sources to measure progress from year to year,” Ferguson said in a statement.
She noted what she called “promising alliances” that could improve residents’ health, including the Partnership for a Healthy Lee County, the Lee-Whiteside-Stephenson Breastfeeding Task Force, and the We Choose Healthy Community Transformation, a workplace wellness initiative.
The rankings of Ogle, Carroll and Bureau counties dropped – Ogle from 14th to 22nd, Carroll from 29th to 53rd, and Bureau from 25th to 35th.
In both Whiteside and Lee counties, the percentage of adult smokers dropped – 26 percent to 24 percent in Lee County and 33 percent to 31 percent in Whiteside County.
According to the survey, 14 percent of Lee County residents and 13 percent in Whiteside County were uninsured. Statewide, it stands at 17 percent.
Eighteen percent of Whiteside County’s children live in poverty, compared with 15 percent in Lee County.
The survey ranked Douglas County, in the central part of the state, as the healthiest in Illinois. The five least healthy counties, Alexander, Gallatin, Edwards, Franklin and Pulaski, are in southern Illinois.
The overall rankings for each of the area counties over the last 3 years. Illinois has 102 counties.
County 2013 2012 2011 2010
Whiteside 18 38 44 47
Lee 40 32 27 41
Ogle 22 14 20 24
Bureau 35 25 23 34
Carroll 53 29 27 9
Source: University of Wisconsin Health Institute and Robert Wood Foundation, www.countyhealthrankings.org