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Forsyth fit to be third
County ranks high in report
David Sizemore launches out of a bowl at the Fowler Park skate park on a recent afternoon. Forsyth was ranked third-healthiest county in Georgia in a recent national report, which officials attribute in part to its recreational offerings. - photo by Autumn McBride

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Forsyth is the third healthiest county in Georgia, according to a national report released Wednesday.

County Health Rankings, a project through the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, developed health rankings for nearly every county in all 50 states. This is the project’s second year.

In 2010, Forsyth also ranked third in Georgia, both years trailing only Fayette and Oconee counties.

The county scored higher than its neighbors, including Gwinnett, which ranked fourth, and Cherokee, at sixth.

Hall County was 10th, while Dawson and Fulton counties came in 22nd and 26th, respectively.

James McCoy, president and chief executive officer of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said the ranking wasn’t a surprise.

“It just reflects the overall philosophy of this community,” he said. “Our community is rich with parks and all kinds of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities. Our community really supports an active lifestyle.”

The report used five measures to assess the level of overall health for each county.

They included: Rate of people dying before age 75; percentage of population in fair or poor health; and numbers of days people report being in poor physical condition and mental health; and rate of low-birth weight infants.

The report also looked at factors that affect people’s health, such as smoking, obesity, excessive drinking, teenage births, number of uninsured adults, high school graduation rates and children in poverty.

According to the findings, Forsyth has a rate of 15 recreational facilities per 100,000 residents, while Georgia has nine and the nation 17.

In addition, Forsyth residents have 100 percent access to healthy foods through outlets such as grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Georgia residents overall have 65 percent access, and nationwide the percentage is 92.

While third overall, the county ranked second in the state for health factors.

These consist of health behaviors — such as smoking, obesity, drinking and sexually transmitted diseases — as well as clinical care factors.

Those include uninsured adults, ratio of population to health care providers, and diabetic and mammography screenings.

McCoy pointed to strong health care facilities, such as Northside-Hospital Forsyth, as a reason for the high ranking.

“We are very fortunate to have great health care resources in our community and strong leadership in the health care industry helping us to be a healthy community,” he said.

According to the study, about 13 percent of Forsyth’s adult population smokes, as compared to 20 percent in Georgia and 15 percent in the nation.

The state’s obesity rate is 28 percent and the national rate is 25 percent, while Forsyth’s is 24 percent.

The county did score higher than the state and nation for excessive drinking, with 18 percent of adults reporting heavy or binge drinking.

The state percentage was 14, and the national rate 8 percent.

A number of social and economic factors also factored in the rankings.

Seventy-six percent of adults in Forsyth age 25 to 44 had at least some college, as compared to 58 percent in Georgia and 68 percent across the nation.

The percentage of children under 18 living in poverty was 6 percent in Forsyth and 20 percent in Georgia and 11 percent nationwide.

Forsyth’s teen birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 was higher than the national rate of 22, but lower than Georgia’s 55. 

Also, about 15 percent of children live in single-family households in Forsyth, as compared to 35 percent across Georgia and 20 percent nationwide.

Calhoun County in south Georgia was considered the state’s most unhealthy in the report.

The majority of Georgia’s healthiest counties are in the northern part of the state, clustered in the metro Atlanta area, while most of the unhealthiest are in south Georgia.