Fairfax County received some encouraging news on the health front last week.
According to a recent ranking conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Fairfax was deemed the healthiest county in Virginia and among the best in the entire Washington metro region.
Not every national ranking or regional survey that mentions Fairfax warrants a glossy four-page marketing brochure. Over the years, Fairfax or localities within the county have been ranked for everything from household income and air quality to educational attainment and commute times.
In 2011, a CLRSearch study determined that Falls Church was the second-most educated city in the U.S. Last year, Reston was ranked among Money magazine’s “Ten Best Places to Live” in the U.S. — an honor Herndon and Oakton had garnered the previous year. Herndon residents were probably less thrilled in 2009 when Business First magazine dubbed them the “most obscene city in America” based on words used during Google searches.
With all due respect to past studies, last month’s health survey is one Fairfax County can be particularly proud of.
The rankings were based on two sets of measures: health outcomes, such as the length and quality of life; and weighted health factors. Some of those factors included alcohol and tobacco use, diet and exercise, access to health care, and physical environment factors.
When compared to the other 94 counties in Virginia, Fairfax obviously fared well across the board.
That said, Fairfax County’s health care community will be the first to say there’s still much work to be done before any champagne corks start flying. Far too many children and adults in Fairfax still face preventable health risk factors such as inadequate physical activity, poor nutrition, heart disease and obesity.
According to Fairfax County’s official website, 58 percent of adults in the county are overweight; 10 percent of our residents lack health insurance and more than 18 percent of children 19-25 months old are not up-to-date on recommended vaccinations. The list goes on.
Last week’s report served as a much-needed shot in the arm to Fairfax County’s health care community for the good work they do, but much of what determines good health takes place outside of doctor’s offices and hospital rooms. Just as much is influenced by what we eat, the safety of our communities, and how much family and social support we receive.
If Fairfax County, and Virginia as a whole, hopes to stay ahead of the health curve, every resident and lawmaker in the state will have to play a part.