Health & Fitness

How healthy is your community? The answer goes beyond medical care

Eating fresh vegetables, like those found at a farmers market in Sweetwater, goes a long way to keeping you healthy.
Eating fresh vegetables, like those found at a farmers market in Sweetwater, goes a long way to keeping you healthy. Miami Herald File Photo

Miami-Dade and Broward fall way short of being among the healthiest counties in Florida, but they're still in the top one-third of all counties statewide in terms of length and quality of life, according to rankings released Wednesday by two national research groups.

Miami-Dade ranked 23rd and Broward 19th on the list of healthiest to least healthy counties in the state, according to the New-Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Although the researchers’ rankings don’t delve into demographic details, Miami-Dade and Broward have a higher concentration of low-income people and immigrants along with uninsured residents among the state’s major urban areas.

Florida's healthiest top five counties are: St. John's, Collier, Sarasota, Seminole and Martin. Ranked at the bottom, starting with the least healthy counties, are: Union, Gadsen, Madison, Putnam and Hamilton, according to the eighth annual County Health Rankings.

INTERACTVE MAP: See how your area ranks

The researchers’ county-by-county data — measuring information in both Florida and other states through 2015 — show that good health is affected by many factors beyond medical care, including housing, education, jobs and access to healthy foods.

“The data compiled in the rankings serve as a reminder that many factors beyond health care influence one’s health, and the county profiles help communities determine whether their local efforts are improving the health of their residents,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

For this year’s rankings, researchers said they took a closer look at premature deaths — those among people under 75 years old. In Florida, they found 46 counties have experienced improvements in premature death rates, while two have seen worsening rates and the rest saw no change.

Nationally, drug overdoses are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths among 15- to 44-years-old, researchers found.

Their report concluded that “the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among 25- to 44-years-old and is a clear driver of this trend.”