Are people in Schenectady County living long, healthy lives?
According to a study of county health outcomes released this week, the answer, all too often, is a resounding no.
The study, by the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Health Population Institute, provides a snapshot of overall health for every county in the country.
In Schenectady County, that snapshot is fairly gloomy.
The county is the 53rd healthiest county in the state, which puts it near the bottom of 62 New York counties ranked by the study. Also faring poorly was Montgomery County, ranked the 54th healthiest county in the state.
Fair or not, you don't have to go very far to find counties where residents can expect to live longer, healthier lives.
Saratoga County ranks fourth in the state for overall health outcomes. Schoharie County ranks 20th. Albany County ranks 22nd.
What makes Schenectady's lousy ranking somewhat bewildering is the much more positive picture presented by the study's ranking of counties by health factors — the factors, such as obesity, smoking and access to health care, that determine how long and how well people live.
Schenectady County ranks 25th in the state for health factors, which looks pretty good when you compare it to Montgomery County (60th), Fulton County (44th) and Schoharie County (35th).
Boosting Schenectady County's health factor ranking is clinical care — there are more doctors, dentists and mental health providers in Schenectady County than in the Capital Region's more rural counties.
Presumably, this makes it easier for residents to access care and obtain treatment when they're sick or injured.
Also noteworthy: Both Fulton and Montgomery counties have a higher percentage of children living in poverty than Schenectady County, but a much lower violent crime rate. And the percentage of residents who smoke and drink excessively exceeds the state average in all three counties.
What becomes apparent, reading through the study's rankings, is that too many Capital Region communities are ailing — plagued by poor health outcomes and a reduced life expectancy.
It's a sad state of affairs, and it's especially acute in counties with higher rates of poverty.
It's not a problem that's easily solved, but if we want people to live longer, healthier lives, then lifting them out of poverty is a must.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]