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Forsyth second in health
Ranking reflects many qualities
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Jackson Weaver plays tennis with friends Wednesday at Central Park. Local recreational opportunities were a factor in the county ranking high for health. - photo by Autumn Vetter

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The full County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report can be found at

According to a new national health ranking, Forsyth remains one of the healthiest counties in Georgia.  

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a report from the United Health Foundation that ranks every state and county in the country, shows Forsyth as being second only to Fayette County in health among the state’s 159 counties for 2012.

Forsyth also ranked second to Fayette, which is southwest of Atlanta, in the 2011 report.

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.

Linda Cole, 2013 chairwoman of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce who works at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said those factors and others contribute to the wellness of local residents.

“Obviously, there’s no one single reason why we continue to be so healthy in Forsyth County,” she said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of people’s efforts.”

Those people, she said, range from professionals in the medical community to elected officials and religious leaders.

“Our health care providers in our county are very active and focused on not just helping people heal, but helping them stay well,” she said.

“Our school system is very focused on providing healthy lunches and getting kids active … we’re trying to start that trend of keeping people healthy when they’re at a very early age.

“Our [county and Cumming] parks and recreation departments are phenomenal and even our churches are very involved with having gyms and rec programs for their members.”

According to the report, 23 percent of Forsyth’s population is obese, compared to 28 percent of the state’s total population.

Just 14 percent of the county’s population smokes, while 19 percent of the state does, and the county’s teen birth rate was much lower at 28 percent versus 54 percent.

Cole, a lifelong county resident, said Forsyth has always been a healthy place, but she has seen improvements over the years.

“I think it’s always been a very active county, always involved in sports and outdoor activities due largely to being located near [Lake Lanier] and the mountains,” she said. “But probably the biggest change I’ve seen over the years is the focus on healthier eating.

“Growing up in the South, everything was fried and I have seen that change.”

The county scored worse than the state average in just one area in the report. Forsyth’s binge drinking rate was 18 percent, while the state’s was 14 percent.

The county had strong numbers in socioeconomic factors, such as a 90 percent high school graduation rate over the state’s 81 percent.

Forsyth’s neighbors also fared well in the rankings, with three in the state’s top 10.

Cherokee County, to the west, came in fourth, while eastern neighbors Gwinnett and Hall counties ranked fifth and ninth, respectively.

To the north, Dawson County placed 15th, while Fulton, south of Forsyth, came in at 26th.

As a whole, Georgia ranked near the bottom of the list, coming in at 36th of 50 states in the nation, but moving up one spot from 37th in the 2011 report.

The five healthiest states, according to the report, were Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

The five least healthy states were South Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for the bottom spot.