| MILWAUKEE, Sept 8
MILWAUKEE, Sept 8 Conventional wisdom might
suggest living in the country would be healthier than the city,
but that is often not the case, according to a study comparing
relative health across cities, suburbs and rural areas.
"Some of these rural areas are quite depressed,
impoverished, with poor social and economic factors -- and they
have bad health outcomes," Patrick Remington of the University
of Wisconsin Population Health Institute said on Thursday.
Remington, who expanded the institute's annual statewide
study to a national study in 2010, said some of the least
healthy places in Wisconsin were small country towns.
The County Health Rankings takes a snapshot of an area's
health using rates of premature death, low birth weight,
disease and risk factors such as smoking, obesity, drinking and
crime along with education and employment rates.
One of the main goals of the rankings is to raise community
awareness. This year's study concluded that 48 percent of the
healthiest counties were urban or suburban, while 84 percent of
the unhealthiest counties were rural.
Suburban counties tended to have the best health outcomes,
"Some cities have better health outcomes than what you
would expect," Remington added, pointing to some densely
populated boroughs of New York as ranking well.
Not all high population areas fared well. Wisconsin's most
populous area, Milwaukee County, ranked last in the state.
The study helped to change some behavior in Genesee County,
Michigan, which ranked last among the state's 82 counties in
the 2010 rankings.
Flint is the county seat of Genesee, which is north of
Detroit and has been buffeted in recent years by the downturn
in both the Michigan economy and the U.S. auto industry.
As president and chief executive of the Greater Flint
Health Coalition, Kirk Smith is familiar with the problems
highlighted in the rankings, including the county's high rates
of smoking, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.
"We always knew we had problems like that, but when you
come in last in diet, health, exercise and nutrition, it's a
good tool to wake people up," Smith said. "It raised a lot of
awareness. It was key to really starting to generate a lot of
action around things like health behaviors in our community."
(Reporting by John Rondy; Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia