Local officials are hailing a new study that shows while New York state may have health problems, Albany County has made strides in ensuring residents are thriving.
The 2019 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute have released the annual “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.” The rankings reflect a health snapshot of counties across America, showing that where you live plays a significant role in how well and how long you will live.
Albany County's Director of Communications Mary Rozak: "If we talk about life expectancy, we're number 16. And 13 in health behaviors. And what is health behaviors? It's physical activity, it's teen birthrates. We're getting better. When we look at how Albany County ranks in general health factors, we rank seventh. And if we look more specifically at some of the social and economic factors, if we look at unemployment, high school, college education, crime rates, we're also ranked seventh. If we look in other areas like clinical care, we're ranked fifth. In terms of the number of those uninsured below age 65 and that 4 percent is well below the state average is well below the state average and better than some of the top U.S. performers."
Rozak notes that some of the data is from 2014, five years ago. But the positives identified by the report continue an upward trend. "This year we're ranked number 22 when it comes to health factors. Now if we take a look, last year we were 26. The year before we were 27. In 2016 we were 35. We have been consistently improving our health outcomes."
Life expectancy throughout the county averages 80 years old, besting the national average of 79. Albany County also did well when it comes to housing costs. Only 15 percent of households spend 50 percent or more of their income on housing, with Rensselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties in that same neighborhood. That housing cost burden tracks "substantially higher" among renters than owners, compared to 25 percent in Westchester and New York Counties, 27 percent in Rockland , 33 percent in Queens County and a whopping 39 percent in Bronx County.
Rozak says County Executive Dan McCoy has spearheaded a number of programs and policies that have improved Albany County's health report card. "Raising the age for tobacco purchases to 21. Banning tobacco products in pharmacies. He had issued an executive order and directive about prohibiting vaping e-cigarettes on county properties. Working with our County Health Department County Executive McCoy held a press conference and announced he'd gotten a national recognition and award for the complete streets program, a combination of making walkability and livability safer in our communities, often encouraging people to get out and walk, that physical activity, that exercise."
McCoy has been a vocal opponent of oil trains lumbering through Albany and pushed drugstores to stop selling tobacco.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Dr. Richard Besser: "Our health is influenced by many things, like a good job, a good education and safe places to play. All of these factors are linked to where we live. Our home. Every community should look at their county health ranking, assess their most pressing needs, and work on comprehensive solutions together."