Morning Read: Is St. Lawrence County really that unhealthy?

A national organization has ranked counties across the US for health factors and health outcomes, and according to their findings St. Lawrence County lands near the bottom of the list for New York state.

The county ranks 60th in health factors — availability of grocery stores and other issues — out of the state’s 62 counties.

It also ranks 55th in terms of actual outcomes, a measure of early mortality, obesity and other factors.

Clinton County also ranks low — coming in 47th.

The unhealthiest county in the Empire state is the Bronx.

Essex, Hamilton, Warren and Saratoga Counties all fare much better, landing in the top twenty.

Check out the full map and all the data here and chime in below.

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16 Comments on “Morning Read: Is St. Lawrence County really that unhealthy?”

  1. Bret4207 says:

    If you read some of the criteria it seems skewed towards a very urban mindset. Location relative to health food stores and gyms for instance.

    I’ll take the information with grain of salt, pun intended.

  2. tourpro says:

    Not really a huge surprise.

    Hate to keep beating a dead-horse, but I wonder if they include prison data?

    I also saw in recent NYS Budget bill that they formally define the term
    “food desert” – a place where you don’t have access to healthy foods.

  3. Paul says:

    I agree with Bret. I was just thinking the other day about how a town like Saranac Lake doesn’t seem to have a gym to speak of that you can join as a member. But really who cares, you don’t need a gym when there are so many health activities right outside the door. Not so much in the Bronx. But with that said I do see a problem is some places. Look at a town like St. Regis Falls. Folks there have to shop at a gas station convenience store. Every evening you see folks stock up on beer and cigarettes. Not a healthy way to live.
    The key to good health in a rural place like St. Lawrence county is to promote outdoor activities. Hiking, hunting, skiing are fun ways to stay healthy. More fun that running on a treadmill.

  4. TomL says:

    If you look at the subgroup categories, it is not just questionable measures like distance to a gym that account for St. Lawrence County’s dismal ranking.
    We are 58 of 62 in premature death. 40 or 62 in morbidity. 59 of 62 in clinical care, 55 0f 60 in healthy behaviors etc. It all paints a picture of an unhealthy population.

    It would be helpful to know whether prisoners and college students count into this. I doubt though that these populations have skewed the data significantly. If prisoners were a cause of the skew, you would expect Franklin County to be worse then SLC, when in fact it is quite a bit better.

    To answer Brian’s question, I suspect the answer is yes, St. Lawrence County is that unhealthy.

  5. Mervel says:

    The findings are accurate. St. Lawrence County also is one of the leading counties in the state for diabetes and obesity. All of these findings are consistent with chronic poverty. St. Lawrence County is also one of the poorest counties in the State, once again down there with the Bronx.

  6. Mervel says:

    Its not about promoting healthy exercise habits its about reducing poverty.

  7. Pete Klein says:

    These statistics are like most if not all statistics: on an individual level, they mean nothing.
    Some people live long up here. Some people live long in the Bronx. Some people are wealthy up here. Some people are wealthy in the Bronx.
    When it comes to you or me, it’s up to you and me, and the fickle finger of fate.

  8. Bret4207 says:

    Alright everybody, go look at Hamilton County. Ranked #11. I couldn’t figure that one out till I saw that a whole lot of their categorizes are BLANK. 7.4% unemployment? Riiiiight. A complete blank on adult smoking! I don’t know what it’s like now, but 15 years ago I think a case of Camels was still considered and appropriate baby shower gift in Indian Lake! His and her Zippos were just the rage in Long Lake and as far as alcohol abuse…well, it kept my folks in business for years.

    This whole survey is bogus if that’s what they’re using as data for ranking. I love Hamilton Co, lived there a long time. But I’ll put my St Lawrence Co neighbors up against my Hamilton Co friends any day of the week as far as health goes.

  9. Mervel says:

    Bret no other statistics confirm that, St. Lawrence county ranks towards the bottom (not at the bottom) in most health related statistics in NYS. This may be a bogus survey I agree, many are. But all other health related survey’s by our own state DOH and other in state sources have St. Lawrence county near the bottom on a range of actual health issues.

    The fact is counties in the Adirondacks are healthier because they have wealthier people living in them, people who hike, run, cross country ski etc. People where I live do none of those things, they drink, smoke, ice fish, shoot deer, snowmobile and eat plenty of processed food. Which is all fine I do most of those also with the exception of smoking. But poverty breeds bad health all over the world and in the US also, and St. Lawrence County is one of the poorest in the state of New York.

  10. oa says:

    You’re right, Mervel, mostly. But it’s not just poverty. It is lifestyle, which extends to the middle class here too. Things like driving kids to school instead of walking them, and having them walk when they’re old enough. Or just walking places, period. We don’t do that any more, not even in smaller, walkable villages. Heavy drinking and overeating aren’t just vices of the poor up here, though smoking basically is. And Bret, ask any health care worker in the area; those statistics don’t lie.

  11. Bret4207 says:

    Guys, I’m not saying St Law Co is a health utopia. I’m saying Hamilton darn sure shouldn’t rank #11! You cannot establish a ranking structure with incomplete data! And where did the data come from?

    Yeah, I get it, yuppies in their Saranac Lake or Blue Mtn lodges that have time to ski and kayak are going to be healthier than the retired mine worker in Balmat. But the retired mine worker drinking his lunch in St Law Co isn’t going to be any healthier than the retired mine worker in North River or Mineville. At least compare apples to apples.

  12. TomL says:

    Bret4207′s point is fair – when there are very few people, as in Hamilton County, then these kinds of statistics can become unreliable. The same reason that cancer rate statistics for low-population districts should be looked at with a grain of salt.

    For St. Lawrence County, the dismal statistics probably do provide a valid indicator of the average (poor) health of its citizens.

  13. oa says:

    Bret said: “If you read some of the criteria it seems skewed towards a very urban mindset. Location relative to health food stores and gyms for instance.
    I’ll take the information with grain of salt, pun intended.”
    Bret, you did not read this correctly. The linked report categories are not “Location relative to health food stores and gyms,” as you say.
    The first category I think you refer to is:
    “Access to healthy foods,” explained as “Healthy food outlets include grocery stores and produce stands/farmers markets.”
    (Lack of access to grocery stores is a classic “urban” problem in places like the Bronx, by the way.)
    The second category I think you refer to is:
    “Access to recreational facilities,” defined as “Rate of recreational facilities per 100,000 population.” I’m sure that includes gyms, but I also imagine it includes parks, playgrounds, etc… Which are pretty suburban/small town amenities, no?

  14. Bret4207 says:

    Is that what they counted? I don;t think so, look at the fuller explanation of recreational facilities- “This measure represents the number of recreational facilities per 100,000 population in a given county. Recreational facilities are defined as establishments primarily engaged in operating fitness and recreational sports facilities, featuring exercise and other active physical fitness conditioning or recreational sports activities such as swimming, skating, or racquet sports.”

    That’s not a park or playground or the woods, that’s a fitness center. “The key word is “establishments”. (Wish I knew how to make stuff bold in this platform). And look at the healthy food thing- “produce stand”. I don;t know how familiar you are with St Law Co but you can’t go by an Amish farm that doesn’t have a produce stand and there are a lot of Amish.

    Overall the issue I have is ranking counties that I’m familiar with differently when the data is incomplete or just wrong.

  15. oa says:

    Point taken on gyms. You may be right, but any park with a track or baseball field qualifies under that definition. But you’ll concede the health-food store point, won’t you? That was a distortion.

  16. Mervel says:

    Bronx County is also very unhealthy and they live a totally different external life than we do. The common thread is poverty.

    It is not the fault of individual poor people. However poor health is directly correlated with poverty; the reasons that they go together are complex and I don’t think we totally understand them.

    But providing more opportunities for activity is a point well taken, where are the playgrounds, where are the pick up games of ball etc? We do drive our kids everywhere and no one walks it seems, so those are all good points and things we could look at.

    But where does someone in Depyster shop for groceries, let alone healthy grocery options? The nearest place would be Heuvelton’s convenience store. Processed food is also seemingly cheaper than healthy food.

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