CHICAGO — An annual report finds that Woodford County in central Illinois is the state's healthiest, while Alexander County in Illinois' far southern tip ranks last.
The report looks at nearly every county in the nation and is prepared each year by the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It was released Wednesday. Its aim is to help local officials to take action to improve the health of their communities.
The study looks at factors such as high school graduation rates, access to health providers and healthy foods as well as rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.
Not surprisingly, the healthiest Illinois county, Woodford, had some of the state's best scores for individual health and social and economic factors. Its childhood poverty rate was 8 percent.
Alexander was at the bottom. Forty-nine percent of children there were living in poverty and the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent.
The overall health ranking for Cook County, the state's most populous, was 75 of the 102 Illinois counties.
A map of the results showed counties with the poorest rankings were generally clustered in central and southern Illinois.
Vermillion County in the eastern part of the state was 95th.
That partly reflects social and economic conditions there "that are hard to break," said Jenny Trimmell, administrator of the Vermillion County Health Department.
Since the last survey, the county saw an increase in single-parent households, obesity, violent crime and sexually transmitted diseases.
"I know that organizations within our community are working every day trying to impact some of these health behaviors," Trimmell told The News-Gazette in Champaign. "But some of these are going to take years to turn around."