A new analysis of various health factors found that the cities within
Suffolk County — including Boston — rank near the bottom compared to
other counties in the Bay State.
The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report, released last week
by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranked
Suffolk County at 13 out of the state’s 14 counties in terms of overall
Despite having a better than average primary care physician ratio
and a low rate of uninsured citizens, the county suffers from factors
like excessive drinking and the rate of sexually transmitted infections,
“Having access to quality health care is great, but as you can see
there is more to having a healthy community than having a health care
system,” said Angela Russell, an associate researcher at the Population
Health Institute. “Where you live matters to your health.”
While the study paints a bleak picture for communities in Suffolk
County, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Boston Public Health
Commission, said Boston’s averages for some of the data is lower than
that of the other cities in the county.
While the analysis puts 18 percent of Suffolk County residents at
poor or fair health, Ferrer said that number for Boston is about 13.5
However, she said the sexually transmitted infection rate is a problem that health officials are still working to solve.
“We’re doing a much better job on teen birth and teen pregnancy
rates, but we must do a better job on educating teens on … what to do
to protect yourself,” she said.
Several surrounding suburbs of Boston fared much better than Suffolk County in the rankings.
Dukes and Nantucket counties ranked first and second in the analysis.
Dukes County includes Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
Middlesex County, which includes Cambridge, Medford and Somerville
ranked third. The rate of sexually transmitted infections in Middlesex
County was significantly lower (173) than Suffolk County. It stretches
as far north as Lowell and the New Hampshire border and as far west at
Norfolk County, which includes Brookline, Milton, Randolph and Quincy, ranked fourth. Only 9
percent of its population rated itself as in poor or fair health, which is half of Suffolk County’s rating.