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Vermilion fourth from bottom in ranking health of Illinois' counties

By Debra Pressey/ The News-Gazette  — For a second year in a row, Vermilion County has been ranked one of Illinois' unhealthiest places to live in a report that looked at health of all U.S. counties. 

Vermilion County with its higher smoking rate, double the number of single-parent households and much greater chance for premature death than national benchmarks was ranked 98th, in the bottom 10 for health among Illinois' 102 counties.

Champaign County ranked near the upper third for a second year in a row, at 34th healthiest in the state. 

The report was released this week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

The Vermilion County Health Department called a community meeting Thursday to discuss the findings and begin addressing the problems they reveal, public health administrator Shirley Hicks said.

By the numbers

Following are East Central Illinois counties' rankings out of the state's total of 102. The lower the number, the healthier the county.

Ford: 11
Douglas: 14
Iroquois: 28
Champaign: 34
Coles: 51
Edgar: 68
Piatt: 68
DeWitt: 75
Vermilion: 98

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.



 "It's a community problem," she said. 

Not all of the findings for example, the violent crime rate, air quality and unemployment are in public health's control, she said. But budget cutbacks and downsizing will severely limit what can be done with public-health resources, she said. 

The report, for example, showed an adult smoking rate of 27 percent in Vermilion County compared with 18 percent in Champaign County. 

"The (public health) smoking program is no longer in existence here," Hicks said. "Our ability to make an impact on that is diminished at the health department." 

Vermilion County also had to discontinue sexually transmitted disease treatment last June because of budget cuts. 

Still, Hicks said, "I don't believe that we can look at a single indicator and pick and choose what one thing needs to be fixed. They're all so interrelated and interconnected." 

Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde said the report is one measure of health of a community, but not the only one. 

She wants Champaign County to continue to work harder at boosting vaccinations and lowering the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and preventable illness. 

Through vaccinations, people protect not only themselves from preventable illnesses, but also "other people who don't have the opportunity to protect themselves," she said. 

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has set four goals in its next five-year plan to improve the health of the community, Pryde said. They include working on lowering obesity and unintentional injuries, improving access to care and reducing violence.

In Illinois, Kendall County was ranked the healthiest county, followed, in order, by DuPage, Woodford, McHenry, Jo Daviess, Monroe, McDonough, Lake, Kane and Henry.

The county in the poorest health, according to the report, was Alexander County, followed by Pulaski, Hardin, Saline, Vermilion, Franklin, Edwards, Marion, St. Clair and Hamilton counties.

Researchers said the healthiest counties were mostly in the northern and western areas of Illinois while the counties in poorest health were in the southern and eastern areas of the state.

The rankings were based on five measures to rank overall health outcomes for each county, including the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people reporting being in fair or poor health, the number of days people report being in fair or poor mental or physical health and the rate of low birth weight in infants.

Some other factors considered including smoking rates, adult obesity, excessive drinking among adults, community safety, access to healthy foods and air quality.

Some highlights:
  • In a 30-day period, Vermilion County averaged 4.1 poor mental health days compared with 2.8 in Champaign County.
  • In a 30-day period, Vermilion County averaged 4.6 poor physical health days compared with 2.9 in Champaign County.
  • 22 percent of adults in Champaign County are uninsured; 12 percent of adults in Vermilion County are uninsured.
  • The teen birth rate per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 is 66 in Vermilion County and 22 in Champaign County.


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