Bronx still last in health rankings for 8th year

For the eighth straight year, the Bronx is once again the least healthiest county in the state according to the 2017 County Health Rankings by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

The Bronx finished 62nd out of 62 counties, far behind other NYC counties such as Queens – which finished 14th – and Manhattan which finished 11th.

In the study, the Bronx ranked last in four of the six categories used for grading – Physical Environment, Social & Economic Factors, Clinical Care, and Quality of Life.

As for the remaining categories, Health Behaviors and Premature Death, the borough ranked 58th and 47th respectively.

The foundation looked at data available as late as 2015 to determine the rankings.

“While we remain at number 62, that does not mean we should give up on our efforts to strive for better health,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement to the Bronx Times.

According to his spokesperson, Diaz also plans to continue his ‘#not62’ campaign, which is a borough wide effort to perpetuate healthier habits and better quality of life in the Bronx.

Despite being last, Jan O’Neill, associate researcher and community coach for the County Health Rankings, was very pleased with the work the Bronx is doing to raise their rating.

“What the Bronx has been able to do is extraordinary with bringing their premature death rate down,” said O’Neill.

The study defined premature death as people dying under the age of 75

From 2012-2014, the Bronx averaged 6,700 premature deaths per 100,000 residents.

Top performers in the study throughout the United States averaged 5,200 premature deaths in the same time span.

Top performers in New York averaged 5,300 premature deaths.

While, the Bronx averaged 1,000 premature deaths more compared to its U.S. and state competitors, O’Neill said it was important to realize how far the Bronx has come since the study began in 2009.

From 2009 to 2011, the Bronx was averaging 7,313 premature deaths.

O’Neill also pointed out that throughout the country deaths of people ages 15-44 are increasing due to drug overdoses.

However, the Bronx is decreasing the amount of drug overdoses for people 15-44 years old.

For those discouraged by still holding last place, O’Neill pointed out a few factors to keep in mind.

“One of the things is this is really more of a marathon than a sprint,” she said of the Bronx’s drive to get healthier.

In addition, she said while the Bronx is becoming healthier, other counties may be doing the same which makes it harder to move up the rankings.

Like O’Neill, Diaz also stressed patience in the fight to get healthier.

“We are witnessing real progress towards a healthier Bronx, but this work takes time,” said Diaz.

Much like attaining good health, no one said getting out of last place was going to be easy, no one promised quick-fixes and overnight improvement,” he added.

According to the study, the Bronx improvements are: violent crime is down, mammography screenings are up and residents are doing more to forego the need to visit hospitals.

“The new data clearly demonstrates that we are making inroads in important areas of disease prevention – critical to decreasing health care disparities and advancing the long-term health of our community,” said Steven M. Safyer, M.D., president of Montefiore Medicine.

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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