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Efforts to improve health ranking pays off

Alex Kielar
Posted 3/26/24

SULLIVAN COUNTY — Sullivan County’s health ranking has risen to 57 out of 62 counties, according to the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) County Health Rankings …

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Efforts to improve health ranking pays off


SULLIVAN COUNTY — Sullivan County’s health ranking has risen to 57 out of 62 counties, according to the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) County Health Rankings and Roadmap report, released on March 20. Last year, Sullivan County ranked 60.

While the website for the RWJF rankings, countyhealthrankings.org, doesn’t include the specific number ranking as they used to, Health and Human Services Commissioner John Liddle told the Democrat that the rank is based on two different sets of data, health outcomes and health factors, compared to other counties. 

Liddle said that instead of including a number ranking on the website, it shows a scale of least healthy in the United States to healthiest in the United States for both health outcomes and health factors. 

The data has a Z-score which shows how a specific county lands on the scale. For both health outcomes and health factors, Liddle said that the county lands at 57 among New York counties which leads to the overall rating of 57. 

“It’s the same statistics as every year, there is just not a number ranking listed next to each county on the website like previous years,” Liddle said.

For health outcomes, which shows how long people live on average within a community, the scale shows Sullivan County just above the national average but below the state average. For health factors, which represent things that can be improved to live longer and healthier lives including smoking, mental health, housing problems and social factors, the county is just below the national average and below the state average. 

The report is highlighted by the county’s health improving across 14 factors, which are:

Access to healthy food

Decrease in physical inactivity

Decrease in excessive drinking

Decrease in sexually transmitted infections

Ratio of dentists to population

Ratio of mental health providers to population

Number of mammograms as a percentage of population

Percentage of population with college education

Decrease in unemployment

Decrease in children in poverty

Decrease in income inequality

Decrease in children in single-parent households

Decrease in overcrowding/high cost/lack of kitchen/lack of indoor plumbing in housing

Decrease in percentage of people driving alone to work


Reactions to health 

ranking improvement

Brian McPhillips commended the DOH for moving the county up in the rankings and that they strive to keep moving up. 

“It’s not lost in the amount of work that the department is doing in trying to make this county a better place,” Brian McPhillips said. “The fact is, that the fear in the beginning was that due to COVID, we thought that number could actually go down. I commend the department and you guys for all your hard work in order to bring that rate up. If we continue to work collaboratively in doing these types of things, I think we can continue to raise that number.”

Liddle noted that the report reveals that the efforts to better the health of Sullivan County are working. 

“I would note that most of the provided data is at least two years old,” stated Liddle. “So my hope here is that the interventions we all started post-pandemic are now really starting to kick in.”

Denise Frangipane, the CEO of Sullivan 180, said that they are very pleased with this year’s overall rankings, especially the individual areas where community health has improved. 

“This success is exactly the momentum we need to continue our work together to build a healthy Sullivan County,” Frangipane said. 

Public Health Director Karen Holden noted that difficult challenges remain, including access to primary care providers, reducing the number of preventable hospital stays and children in poverty. Holden said that, according to the data, one in four children in the county lives in poverty. 


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