FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — With its low premature death and uninsured rates, but exceptional high school graduation rates and plenty of access to exercise opportunities, Forsyth County has been named the healthiest county in Georgia.
This is the fifth consecutive year the county has received this designation from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps study initiated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The program looks into factors such as length and quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
This year’s research found more Americans are dying prematurely, with rates among minorities, residents in rural counties and those ages 15-44 on the rise. The study factored in lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity and exercise frequency. It also looked at income, accessibility to healthcare and education, among many others.
The study found that the leading causes of death under age 75 in Forsyth include malignant neoplasms, heart disease, unintentional injuries from accidents, intentional self-harm and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
The rankings suggest that heathier lifestyles serve as the basis for Forsyth County health outcomes, according to Carolyn Booker, director of patient care services at Northside Hospital Forsyth.
“Increased access to healthcare services, preventative and acute, more green space with parks and recreation, as well as proactive health education focused on prevention are a few of the strategies that contribute to the county’s status,” Booker said. “We rank lower than other counties in behaviors that can negatively impact health, such as adult smoking, adult obesity and physical inactivity. On the other hand, we excel in the behaviors that can have a positive influence on health, such as access to exercise opportunities and our food environment. The healthy behaviors that underpin these outcomes are supported by Forsyth County’s infrastructure of involved citizens, businesses and schools.”
The ongoing collaboration between Forsyth’s government, nonprofits, health care and residents are what helps to set the county apart, she said. And while there may be other social and economic factors that contribute to the outcomes, by and large the members of the community are engaged in making the county a great place to live, work and play, Booker said.
“These results can serve to reinforce the reason that members chose to live here rather than somewhere else,” Booker said. “Residents of the county can be proud of the work that is being done to improve the quality of life for those who choose to make Forsyth County their home. They have access to great health care and we’re always working to improve that even further.”
But even with the top ranking, Forsyth has room for improvements. Adult obesity in the county is at 29 percent, there were 69 violent crimes in 2016 and there were drinking water violations.
“There is always some type of health-related activity taking place in areas of the county,” Booker said. “It might involve children who play baseball, soccer, football or lacrosse for the park and recreation centers, to activities at Lake Lanier or the Boulder Dash, a run-walk event occurring this month and sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Northside Hospital Forsyth. We can see that the civic leaders will never rest on their laurels. There will always be the goal of making Forsyth County a great community.”