DuPage named among Illinois' healthiest counties

DuPage County has been named one of the healthiest counties in Illinois in a national study.

The Robert Johnson Foundation ranked DuPage sixth overall in health and first in health factors, which include components contributing to the future health of the county, such as smoking rate, obesity, access to health care and education.

Angela Russell, who is an associate researcher for the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and worked on the project, said that DuPage County is not only one of the healthiest counties in the state, but in the country.

“DuPage County is doing pretty well for Illinois, and really well in a lot of different areas,” she said, pointing to the county rates of premature death, people dying in motor vehicle crashes, teen pregnancy, uninsured residents and high school graduation rates.

Overall, she said, county rates meet or exceed the state average in a number of categories.

“This study highlights that there are some areas that DuPage is doing really well in, and in some measures, among the best in the nation,” she said. “But there are some real opportunities for improvement.”

DuPage, like other counties around the country, is struggling with obesity, Russell said. One in four adults are obese in the U.S., and DuPage is slightly above that rate at 27 percent. Twenty percent of county and state residents drink excessively, compared to 7 percent nationwide. DuPage County’s morbidity rate is 25th in the state, lower than many of its other rankings.

DuPage also placed poorly in the physical environment category, which includes drinking water safety, number of fast food restaurants, access to recreation and daily fine particulate matter. The county ranked 64th out of 102 in the state.

James Gerwig, external affairs manager at the DuPage County Health Department, said he wasn’t surprised by the predominantly high rankings. In a statement, he said the department has pushed for better health in recent years.

“The Health Department has undertaken several county-wide initiatives over the past five years that are having a positive impact on the health of DuPage County,” he said. “Programs such as FORWARD, Start The Heart and the county’s RxBox initiative are all programs that are factors in DuPage County receiving such a high ranking.”

Russell said counties such as DuPage should avoid complacency when it comes to health.

“Our overall vision and goal is to create a healthier nation, county by county,” she said. “Where you live matters and we need to find opportunities for improvement.”