For the seventh year in a row, Westchester County has ranked in the top five out of 62 counties statewide for health outcomes and health factors, according to the County Health Rankings released Wednesday by the national County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program.
When compared with other counties in New York State, the distinction proves that Westchester is among the healthiest places to live and raise a family, with lower rates of physical inactivity, obesity, teen births, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, motor vehicle crashes and drug overdose deaths, teen births and chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease. Westchester also had higher rates of high school graduation and college attendance, and lower rates of children in poverty, violent crime and injury deaths.
“This is good news for Westchester residents, our health department and our community partners,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “These rankings highlight why it is so important that we continue to collaborate to improve the health and quality of life of all County residents.”
The survey showed that Westchester residents reported they felt physically and mentally healthy more often than residents statewide. County residents had better access to primary care providers, dentists and mental health providers, than residents statewide, with more providers per capita, and higher rates of flu vaccination and cancer screenings.
Despite the toll taken by COVID-19, the County ranked fourth for health outcomes, which measure the length and quality of life, and fifth for health factors, which measure the ways health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the environment affect our health. Westchester has ranked in the top five since 2016, and in the top 10 since 2011. The overall life expectancy in Westchester is 83.6 years, which is better than top performers statewide and nationally.
“Westchester County residents care about their health, enjoy access to quality care and many strive for healthier lifestyles, but health inequities do persist,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Commissioner of Health. “Together with our community partners, we are working to address these complex and difficult problems and to help residents overcome the burden of poverty and health disparities.”
The County’s child poverty index and the teen birth rate both demonstrated stark racial disparities. While Westchester had a much lower rate of child poverty (10%) than the state (18%), the report found that 19 percent of Black and 18 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, as compared to three percent of white children. While 8 percent of Westchester live births overall weighed in at less than 5 lbs. 8 oz., comparable to the state low birthweight, the burden of low birthweight was greatest among Blacks, at 12 percent. The low birthweight rate for whites and Hispanics was seven percent each.
The rankings were developed by The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report shows how counties compare within the state for the length and quality of life, their access to clinical care, as well as for such factors as the teen birth rate and the percentage of residents who smoke, are obese, drink to excess or are physically inactive.