PRESS RELEASE

Sullivan improves national health ranking

Partners vow to continue efforts to sustain, increase that figure

Posted 6/10/20

LIBERTY, NY – Sullivan County Public Health Services is pleased to announce that the County improved its overall level in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings and …

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PRESS RELEASE

Sullivan improves national health ranking

Partners vow to continue efforts to sustain, increase that figure

Posted

LIBERTY, NY – Sullivan County Public Health Services is pleased to announce that the county improved its overall level in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings and Roadmap report for 2020.

“The report was initially released in March, at almost the same time as COVID-19 exploded nationally and globally,” Public Health Director Nancy McGraw said. “The timing would have been awkward, and the messages would have conflicted at a time when so many people were becoming ill, so we chose to wait until now to share this very welcome news.”

On a practical note, McGraw added, “The pandemic has had serious economic impacts on everyone, and it is likely that the long-term social and health consequences may not be realized for some time to come for New York. Nevertheless, it is an encouraging bit of news to know that the collective community’s hard work of improving the economy and the social determinants of health over the past few years has revealed an improvement in some of our health indicators.” Sullivan moved up to #60 in overall NYS rankings.

The #61 spot it previously held is now occupied by Chautauqua County, while Bronx County continues to remain at #62, the lowest of all counties in New York. However, Sullivan moved down in health factors to #51 from #50 in 2019. This can be attributed partially to an increase in sexually transmitted infections and a slight increase in adult obesity. Still, prior to the pandemic, much progress was being made in communities collaboratively with a variety of initiatives. “Those initiatives will continue as soon as we are all able to get back to normal,” said McGraw.

Areas of strength noted in the report included the
• then-low unemployment rate,
• better flu vaccination rates
• low number of uninsured
• stable graduation rates
• better health behaviors, notably declining adult smoking rates

“While these figures represent data collected prior to coronavirus, they show we’ve been moving in the right direction,” added Division of Health & Family Services Commissioner Stephanie Brown. “We have worked diligently to raise these rankings, and that’s beginning to show.”

“This is a great sign that Sullivan can achieve change in the right direction,” Division of Planning Commissioner Freda Eisenberg noted. “The health factor related to Physical Environment is where we made the largest gains, moving from a County ranking of #51 to #26, owing to improvements in water quality and housing.”

“This good news has been a long time in coming, and I thank our Public Health team and our partners for literally raising us up,” affirmed District 2 Legislator Nadia Rajsz, chair of the Legislature’s Health & Family Services Committee. “However, these figures simply make it all the more important to keep working cooperatively with all of our partners to increase our upward movement. This legislature, this county and its partners are not giving up. We have work to do.”

“At Sullivan 180, we look at our County health rankings as both an individual and a collective call to action,” remarked Sandi Rowland, executive director of Sullivan 180, a local nonprofit focused on building a healthy and vibrant County. “Collectively, we need to look for ways we can ensure everyone in Sullivan County has access to healthy food, safe recreation opportunities, access to health care and education, and well-paying jobs with appropriate benefits. There are many ways that we can work to make this happen through advocacy, awareness and support and through working with local government, schools and our local nonprofits. A simple action, such as volunteering to tutor a young person, can have tremendous benefits in the long term towards building a healthier community.”

“Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Sullivan County is proud to work alongside the community and Sullivan County’s service agencies to cultivate a pathway to wellness by increasing access to fruit and veggies, and safe places to exercise,” stated CCE Executive Director Colleen Monaghan. “This announcement is proof that collaboration works, and that we need to sustain these efforts.”

See a snapshot of Sullivan County here.

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