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Health of Onondaga, Madison counties rank average in state

Findings from a nationwide study have ranked the overall health of Onondaga and Madison counties near the middle of the state, but local health officials hope residents don't read too much into the numbers.

The County Health Rankings study, published by Moblizing Action Toward Community Health, ranked Madison County at 23, and Onondaga County at 38, out of the 62 counties in New York State based on a summary of health outcomes identified.

But Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow said the rankings emphasize the importance of community awareness of health.

"The important thing, from my perspective, is that this is a tool that really highlights the issue that community health should be something that is addressed in every community across the country," Morrow said.

She added some of the numbers could be misleading to the public and reflect their community as healthier, or less healthy, than in reality.

For example, Onondaga County ranked second in the state for access to clinical care, which took into account the county's four public and one federal hospital, but failed to recognize a huge problem with providing access to primary care providers for the uninsured and those on Medicare, Morrow said.

"That's more important than how many physicians we have per population," she said.

Morrow encouraged Onondaga County residents to seek the more detailed information available through the New York State Department of Health.

"We have much more objective data available to us," Morrow said.

Madison County Director of Public Health Eric Faisst agreed that the rankings provided an opportunity to create awareness and spark a dialogue within the community, though the study was limited in its scope.

"We have to be cautious with it," Faisst said. "The rankings have created a discussion, and raised questions, and that's good. But people have to realize that all of the solutions aren't going to come from the Health Department, they're going to come from society -- from people working together."

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