Forsyth County got a little bit healthier this year.
According to a recent study, the county is the second-healthiest in Georgia, a step up from last year’s third-place ranking. The study, created by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, measures longevity and health attitudes to determine a county’s ranking.
“We have so much to be proud of,” said Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital-Forsyth administrator. “Your health is invaluable, so having a healthy place to live just adds on to the benefits of living in this community. We have a great school system, a great community overall and a great hospital. I just think it’s another attraction for us.”
Forsyth’s ranking was second only to Fayette County, south of Fulton.
The study reviewed areas like social and economic factors, clinical care, physical environment and access to healthy foods and fast food restaurants. Health behaviors also were looked at, including adult smoking, drinking, motor vehicle crashes and teenage birth rates.
Forsyth exceeds the state average for negative factors only in excessive drinking — 18 percent compared to the state’s 14 percent.
Statistics show about 23 percent of the county’s adults are obese, 13 percent are uninsured, and about 8 percent in poor or fair health.
The University of Wisconsin compiled the rankings using data from 2006-08. The study was done for each county in all 50 states with the goal to connect local communities with leaders to improve health nationwide.
Access to recreational facilities was also an indicator used in the study, one that Jackson said is often overlooked but crucial to health.
“If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, having the ability for walking trails and good outdoor parks is what attracts people to us, I believe,” she said.
Mary Helen McGruder, who helped launch the Forsyth County Parks Foundation, said the county’s parks system is strong because it’s what the community has asked for.
“Our residents, through their support of the parks and recreation bond, and SPLOST have shown that they know the importance of exercise and outdoor activities,” she said. “With the new recreation centers, the greenway and hiking at Sawnee Mountain, local residents have unparalleled opportunities not only to enjoy recreation but to stay healthy.”
Jackson said the hospital has made it a goal to continue improving the county’s health, beginning with its efforts to attract more primary care physicians. According to the study, the need is one of a few weak points for Forsyth.
Forsyth’s current ratio is 2,303 residents per every physician, as compared to 1,024 for the state and 619 for Fayette. Attracting physicians, however, shouldn’t be hard, Jackson said.
“Honestly, people want to come where their families can have a good quality of life,” Jackson said. “They want to come to a place with a good hospital that they can practice in and where people can get good care and we feel we’re attractive in that perspective.
“It’s just great that our community has done so well. I’m so proud.”