There are 159 counties in Georgia, and Forsyth County leads the pack for community health.
On Wednesday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute named Forsyth County the healthiest in Georgia, a designation that the county has received for six years.
“I think it is an accolade that is indicative of how far our community really has come that we have infrastructure that obviously stands the test of time,” said Lynn Jackson, administrator at Northside Hospital Forsyth. “This isn’t a one-time event. This is who we are and what defines us now and continues to add to all the accolades that come as being part of this community.”
The study looked at health outcomes, such as length and quality of life, and health factors, including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Forsyth was named first in health outcomes and second in health factors.
Forsyth County was at the top in the state for quality of life and health behaviors.
For Georgia, Forsyth was first followed by Oconee, Cherokee, Fayette and Gwinnett counties, respectively. The least healthy county was Quitman County followed by Warren, Crisp, Turner and Early counties.
Jackson said officials did a good job of expanding resources in the community, though there were some areas with room for improvement, like distracted driving and mental health.
“I think we still have a significant gap that we are really working on in terms of our community’s infrastructure for mental health and awareness around drug use and abuse,” she said. “Those may go hand-in-hand with some of our mental health resources, so those probably work collaboratively.”
Before beginning the current streak, Forsyth was ranked third in 2011 and second in 2012.
“I think it speaks well of the overall commitment people have. When you’re in a place that has a more vibrant economy, when you’re in a place that is very focused on things like education and improving your life, it stands to reason that healthcare and your personal health is something you’d hold in high-esteem,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce.
McCoy said having a county focused on health was also a factor in businesses deciding to come to the area.
“I think people view the overall health and well-being of the community as kind of a canary in the coal mine,” he said. “It tells those companies what values the community places and what access the community has to all the things that lead a healthy and active lifestyle.”
McCoy said some factors that set the county apart are parks and programming across the county.
County Commission Chairman Todd Levent commended members of the community for making the ranking a reality.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that our citizens are educated enough to read articles, learn how to take better care of themselves and taking the time to eat better, exercise and teach their children the same,” Levent said. “I do believe it has something to do with our fantastic parks that give them the ability to play all these sports with their families and walk our greenway and get out and enjoy the outdoors.”