City’s health ranked

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Suffolk ranks near the middle in the state of Virginia on a nationwide ranking of a variety of health factors, according to data from the study released Wednesday.

The city is ranked No. 70 out of 132 localities in Virginia. That’s close to the middle, but still in the bottom 50 percent. The county ranked No. 1 (Fairfax) is considered the healthiest.


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“While not ideal in terms of health outcomes, these are numbers where we can definitely improve,” said Jaya Tiwari, executive director for the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community. “We definitely have areas where we are doing better than many counties in the state, but there’s lots we can improve on.”

The rankings are done annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The study looked at the rate of health issues such as low birth weight, sexually transmitted infections and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

The city’s ranking improved two spots from last year’s data. Generally, the healthiest communities in the state were those in the Richmond and Northern Virginia areas, as well as some in the mountains and Hampton Roads (Chesapeake and Virginia Beach).

The survey also examined environmental factors, such as air pollution and access to recreational facilities; social and economic data, such as education, poverty and the violent crime rate; and clinical care measures, such as the ratio of primary care providers to the population and the rates of screening tests for diabetes.

The city missed the target rate — set at the 90th percentile of all localities — in every category.

Despite its mediocre overall rating, Suffolk did relatively well in the clinical care measures, receiving a 32 ranking. However, the city ranked in the bottom 10 percent on the physical environment, with includes air pollution and access to healthy foods and recreational facilities.

“These are definitely not the ideal numbers where we would like to be, but we definitely have the resources to bring all the players together,” Tiwari said. “That’s something we have to work together. Everyone has to be involved in that effort to drive that number down.”

The reports can be used to help community leaders see where improvements need to be made and make the connections between environmental and health factors and health outcomes — quality and length of life.

Tiwari said the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community already is doing programs to help improve the worst-ranking areas, such as access to healthy foods. The partnership’s focus on community gardens and support of local farmers’ markets is geared toward improving that ranking, she said.

To see rankings for the entire nation, visit