Forsyth County is in tip-top shape.
According to a recent national study, Forsyth ranked third in overall health among counties in Georgia.
The study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at more than 3,000 counties in all 50 states, measuring them in health and longevity.
Forsyth trailed only Fayette and Oconee counties, and fared better than state statistics in nearly every category.
“This doesn’t mean that we are free and clear of health concerns,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. “But it speaks to the quality and philosophy of health care in this community.”
The study used five measures to account for overall health, including the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people reported being in fair or poor health and the low birth weight rate.
Also considered were the number of days people said they were in poor physical or mental health.
While third in overall health, Forsyth ranks second in the state for healthy influences. These consist of health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment and social and economic factors.
According to the report, about 20 percent of what influences the county’s overall health is actual access and quality of clinical care.
Between diabetic screenings, hospice use, insured adults and other factors, Forsyth fared as well or better than the state’s rates.
“I would attribute a lot of that vision and foresight to the people at Northside Hospital-Forsyth,” McCoy said. “A lot of other communities build themselves on a sickness model, meaning people are going to get sick and we’re here to take care of you.
“Northside and their leadership ... want to work with the community to get you healthy and keep you healthy.”
The hospital also focuses on encouraging healthy behaviors, offering classes on diabetes management, diet and exercise, smoking cessation and other lifestyle improvements.
Unhealthy behaviors accounted for 30 percent of county health factors.
While Forsyth had a lower percentage of smokers, teenage birth rates and vehicle crashes than Georgia, there was a higher level of binge drinking.
The county’s obesity rate is lower than the state’s average, though about a quarter of its residents still are considered obese.
Physical environment accounted for about 10 percent of factors that make a county healthy. But education, employment, income, safety and support from family and friends accounts made up 40 percent.
About 6 percent of the county’s children live in poverty, as compared to the state’s average of 20 percent.
More than 40 percent of the county’s adults have college degrees, 76 percent graduated high school and just 6 percent of children live in a single-parent household.
“The general population in Forsth county is a well-educated population and very informed and involved in the quality of life in the community,” Ann Crow said. “I think that has a lot to do with having a healthier community.”
Crow, a longtime resident who chairs the local school board, said Forsyth’s school system is conscious of the community’s focus on health and responds accordingly, offering low-sugar and low-salt meals in the cafeterias.
“What we are is a reflection of what the community is demanding,” she said. “I think the school system has done a good job of trying to build partnerships with parents so that schools become more geared toward families.
“We are trying to involve them in the decision making and our ultimate goal is to build a community around these schools.”
Results from the study show people who live in healthier counties tend to have higher levels of education, are more likely to be employed and have better access to healthier foods and parks and recreation facilities.
Citing the Big Creek Greenway, Lake Lanier, Sawnee Mountain and other recreational opportunities in the county, McCoy said the county is “very attractive to folks who want to be living a very active lifestyle.”
“The things that make Forsyth County great are the very things that are attracting people to care about themselves and that care about one another,” he said.