At a glance
Top 15 healthiest counties in Georgia:
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Completing a steady uphill climb, a new report ranks Forsyth as the healthiest county in Georgia.
In County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, listed Forsyth as the third healthiest in 2011 and the second in 2012.
To James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, the increase is “reflective of a great health care community.”
“That is our largest and fastest growing industry in Forsyth County and they’re very progressive and thoughtful in their work,” he said. “It’s also reflective of the very high quality of life in this community.
“We have amazing infrastructure of parks and recreation facilities … and a whole culture of folks who are using those amenities.”
The rankings system uses a range of measures to determine health levels. Among them are factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption rates.
Other measures include socioeconomic factors, such as high school graduation rates, number of residents with health insurance and access to healthy foods and clean air.
Some of Forsyth’s neighbors also fared well in the study, including Gwinnett County, which ranked fourth in the state, and Cherokee, which came in fifth. Hall County ranked 11th healthiest in Georgia.
Compared to the state, Forsyth’s child poverty rate is 10 percent, much lower than Georgia’s average of 27 percent and single-parent homes in Forsyth number 13 percent, compared to the state’s 36 percent.
Forsyth also has fewer motor vehicle accidents, higher activity levels and a lower birth rate among teenagers.
While the county fares better in most areas, particularly its violent crime rate of 89 per 100,000 people versus the state’s 437, the county does have a higher rate of excessive drinking of 18 percent, compared to the state’s 14 percent.
Forsyth has the lowest adult obesity rate in the state, though nearly a quarter of the county’s population is considered clinically obese at 23 percent.
Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital-Forsyth administrator, said there is clearly room for improvement.
“Obesity, smoking cessation , activity level — one in five are still not physically active — so we still have opportunities to improve,” she said.
“Just being at that No. 1 spot is a little bit daunting because it hopefully will inspire us instead of causing us to step back from it and say we’ve done the best we could possibly do. We want to keep getting better.”
The county has shown improvements over the years. In 2010, the obesity rate was 25 percent. Smoking, now at 14 percent, was at 16 percent three years ago.
And premature death, ranked by years of potential life lost for those dying before age 75 per 100,000 people, has dropped from 5,077 in 2010 to 4,052 in 2013.
“Obviously, we’re heading down the right path,” McCoy said. “All of the trends are positive, so we need to continue making thoughtful investments in our quality of life and infrastructure that help continue to improve our lifestyle and our levels of health.”
Buster Evans, school system superintendent, said the ranking is another “great accomplishment for our community.”
“Forsyth County Schools is proud to be part of a community that is recognized for good health because it goes hand-in-hand with education.
Jackson said the school system is doing its part, as are the city, county and private industries.
“There’s a unique collaboration that exists,” she said. “There’s that collaboration that’s weaving together these silos that have typically been out there and that has brought us this far and will continue bringing us to the goal.”