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updated: 4/20/2018 7:14 PM

Kane back up among the healthiest counties

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After a two-year dip, Kane County is back among the top 10 healthiest counties in Illinois.

The result is part of an annual study that again indicates suburban counties provide healthier living environments than their more rural or urban peers.

Kane ranked seventh out of 102 counties. It's the county's second-best ranking in recent years. It achieved fifth place in 2015, fell to 13th in 2016 and rose a notch to 12th last year. Kane joins most of the other immediate collar counties in the top 10 this year.

DuPage County ranked No. 1. McHenry County ranked No. 5. Will and Lake counties were nine and 10. Cook County fell to No. 52.

This is the ninth year the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin crafted the rankings. Data for the rankings come from nearly 20 sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI and census estimates.

Each year, the foundation includes new factors that can change where a county ranks in relation to its peers. The changes remove the ability to maintain a strict apples-to-apples comparison year to year.

Barb Jeffers, executive director of the Kane County Public Health Department, said the study put more weight on leading causes of death this year. The relative peace local residents experience is part of why the county scored better.

"The deaths in our community aren't due to violence," Jeffers said. "Also, if you have hugely segregated populations, that lowers your score. We are a well-diversified community. The researchers also saw us as a community taking action to improve. That propelled us to No. 7."

Kane's access to healthy foods, through a plethora of grocers and farmers' markets, also helped the score. An abundance of parks, bike trails and forest preserves fueled a physical activity score five percentage points better than the state average and a No. 2 ranking in residents' health behaviors.

On the flip side, the county's adult obesity rate is on the high end. So is the more than one in five adults who report excessive drinking. The adult smoking rate is high enough that county officials might make 21 the legal age to buy and possess tobacco products in unincorporated areas.

Jeffers said the county's high school graduation rate is concerning. At 85 percent, it's 10 percentage points below the rate in the nation's healthiest counties.

"If you don't have a good education, we know you won't make good choices about your health," Jeffers said. "Not having an advanced education will minimize your employment opportunities. That directly impacts your income. And a low income will impact your ability to afford to live in a safe and healthy situation."

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