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updated: 6/19/2013 5:44 PM

DuPage ranks among the healthiest counties for kids

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  • Already known as a one of the healthiest counties in Illinois, DuPage County has been named one of "America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids," according to a new report.

      Already known as a one of the healthiest counties in Illinois, DuPage County has been named one of "America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids," according to a new report.
    Daily Herald file photo


DuPage County has been named one of "America's 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids," according to a new set of rankings released by U.S. News and World Report.

With a rating of No. 20, DuPage is the only Illinois county to make the list, which highlights communities that "are safe and child-friendly," according to the DuPage County Health Department.

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"This ranking is a result of the health department's commitment to the health care needs of all DuPage County children and families," said Linda Kurzawa, president of the DuPage County Board of Health.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute reviewed data related to infant deaths, birth weights, teen birthrates, injury death rates and poverty levels to determine the rankings.

DuPage scored 87.2 out of a possible 100 points.

The analysis is the first national, county-level assessment of how health and environmental factors affect the well-being of children younger than 18, according to DuPage officials.

Maureen McHugh, the health department executive director, said DuPage traditionally has ranked high in other studies that examined the health of counties.

"Do we think we're a great place to live, work and raise your family? Absolutely." McHugh said Wednesday.

What has officials excited about the latest ranking is that it comes at a time when poverty is climbing in DuPage. Roughly 11 percent of the children in the county are living in poverty, according to the report.

"The numbers support the work we've been doing to expand capacity and programs to meet the needs of a new population in DuPage," McHugh said.

The health department, for example, provides Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Family Case Management services to more than 24,000 people annually. It also offers a dental sealant program for eligible children, a mobile dental van and an urgent care clinic in Wheaton.

In addition, DuPage benefits from having quality hospitals and community partners working together, officials said.

"We certainly have schools involved," said Karen Ayala, director of public health services. "We have human services involved. We have medical providers involved. Everybody gets on board and really works to make the program successful."

DuPage, for example, launched an initiative in 2009 to encourage active living and healthy eating. The FORWARD initiative now has 1,165 coalition members working to reduce the number of children who are overweight or obese, officials said.

"We don't look at issues from one vantage point," McHugh said. "We look at them from a communitywide perspective, because there's not one solution."

Last year, instructors taught healthy behaviors to 23,488 children and others, officials said. The children learned to prevent diseases instead of attempting to manage them later in life.

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