How healthy are these 10 metro Atlanta counties?

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091108- Atlanta - The race started in front of Atlantic Station where the runners headed toward downtown. The ZOOMA Atlanta 5k and half marathon featured a run through downtown Atlanta and a post-race party at Atlantic Station. The course started and finished at Atlantic Station and passed by Centennial Park, CNN Center, Phillips Arena, the Georgia Dome, and Turner Field. Sunday. Nov. 8, 2009. Bob Andres,



Do you smoke? Are you overweight? Do you get regular exercise? Do you have health insurance? Do you have a long commute?

These are just some of the factors examined in a new study that ranks the health of nearly every county in the United States. The annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps project was created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and provides a snapshot of a community’s overall health. The goal: help counties understand how healthy residents are and how long they’ll live.

Here’s how the metro counties stack up:


10. Clayton County

Clayton County’s overall health ranks No. 10 among 10 major metro Atlanta counties and comes in at 61st among Georgia’s 159 counties, according to the County Health Rankings. Some health measures for Clayton, such as the percentage of people who drink excessively (13 percent), are lower than the statewide rates (16 percent for excessive drinking). A  deeper dive into the data, however, shows a number of challenges in Clayton. For instance, 40 percent of adults in the county are obese, compared with 29 percent overall in Georgia. And 21 percent of people say their health is poor or fair. That’s compared with 17 percent of individuals statewide.

Find out more about how healthy Clayton County is here.


9. Rockdale County

Next on our list is Rockdale County, ninth in metro Atlanta and 35th statewide. Rockdale performs better than the state as a whole in a number of areas. Like Clayton, its rate of excessive drinking (14 percent) is lower, as are the number of teen births. But it also has health challenges. An estimated 35 percent of adults in Rockdale are obese. And 28 percent report being physically inactive (compared to 25 percent for Georgia as a whole) even though nearly 90 percent of people say they have access to places where they can be active.

Find out more about how healthy Rockdale County is here.


8. DeKalb County

One of Georgia’s largest counties, DeKalb actually performs better than many other counties in the state when it comes to medical care. For instance, it has far more primary care physicians (1 for every 940 residents) than the statewide ratio of 1,540:1. It has more dentists and mental health providers, too. Smoking and obesity rates (14 percent and 27 percent, respectively) are slightly lower than the statewide averages. But DeKalb performs worse than other counties in some areas, such as violent crime and air pollution.

Find out more about how healthy DeKalb County is here.


7. Fulton County

Fulton, home to roughly 1 million people, according to the latest Census data, ranks seventh in overall health in metro Atlanta and 25th in Georgia. Fulton residents have lower rates of smoking (14 percent), obesity (22 percent) and physical inactivity (19 percent) than the state as a whole. Fewer people also report that their health is “poor or fair.” Some measures, however, are a bit worse than the state as a whole; for example, a slightly higher percentage of people who excessively drink (18 percent), as well as high rates of violent crime and air pollution.

Find out more about how healthy Fulton County is here.


6. Henry County

Henry ranks No. 6 in the metro area and 20th statewide on overall health. It’s uninsured rate (18 percent) for 2013 was lower than the statewide average, as was the number of preventable hospital stays. Henry’s ratio of residents to mental health providers, 810:1, is also slightly lower than Georgia’s ratio as a whole of 850:1. But the county’s ratios of residents to primary care physicians (2,030:1) and to dentists (3,190:1) are both higher than the statewide ratios.

Find out more about how healthy Henry County is here.


5. Cobb County

Cobb ranks fifth in metro and No. 7 overall in Georgia. Eighteen percent of Cobb residents report being physically inactive, compared to 25 percent statewide. Meanwhile, 89 percent say they have access to places where they can be physically active, nearly 15 percent higher than the statewide rate. Cobb also has lower rates of smoking and obesity. The county ranks lower, however — No. 103 statewide — when it comes to its physical environment, a category that includes air pollution, severe housing problems and long commutes.

Find out more about how healthy Cobb County is here.

downtown woodstock

4. Cherokee County

Cherokee comes in at No. 4 in metro Atlanta and sixth in Georgia. Eighty percent in Cherokee report having access to places where they can be physically active. That’s 5 percent higher than the state as a whole. Cherokee also has a lower obesity rate, 26 percent, than the state, 29 percent. Residents also report fewer poor physical and mental health days. Like Gwinnett, however, Cherokee has worse ratios of doctors and dentists to residents: 2,920 residents for every primary care physician (statewide: 1,540:1).

Find out more about how healthy Cherokee County is here.


3. Gwinnett County

Gwinnett, one of the most populous in Georgia, is No. 3 for the metro area and No. 5 statewide for overall health. The rate of Gwinnett adults who smoke, 14 percent, is lower than the statewide rate of 16 percent. Twenty-one percent of people age 20 or older say they are physically inactive, compared with 25 percent in the state overall. Clinical care in Gwinnett falls a little short, ranking No. 55 statewide, when it comes to the number of health care providers. Ratio of residents to primary care physicians is 1,700:1.

Find out more about how healthy Gwinnett County is here.


2. Fayette County

The overall health of residents in Fayette County ranks No. 2 in metro Atlanta and No. 3 in Georgia. At the same time, Fayette is No. 1  in the state when it comes to clinical care. Fourteen percent of residents are uninsured versus 21 percent statewide, according to 2013 data. Ratio of residents to primary care physicians is 910:1. That’s better than the top-performing counties in America. And the county has one dentist per every 1,090 residents, also better than many counties nationally. Like Forsyth, it does have some challenges, including long commutes and air pollution.

Find out more about how healthy Fayette County is here.


1. Forsyth County

Not only is Forsyth the overall healthiest county in metro Atlanta, it’s also the healthiest county in the state. An estimated 26 percent of adults are obese, compared to 29 percent statewide. Some 12 percent of Forsyth residents rate their health as poor or fair, a measure that helps characterize the burden of disabilities and chronic diseases in a community. Statewide, 17 percent of people say their health is poor or fair. On the downside, nearly half (48 percent) of residents have long commutes to work, driving alone, compared to 39 percent statewide.

Find out more about how healthy Forsyth County is here.

About the rankings

These rankings were compiled using more than 20 sources of data, such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. (You can read more about the methods used to develop the rankings here.)

You can also explore the data for your own county here or use an interactive map showing every Georgia county, here.


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