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Study: Oswego County has worst health behaviors in New York State

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Study: Oswego County has worst health behaviors in New York State
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It’s no secret many people now days have unhealthy habits, but a recent study has ranked Oswego County the worst in New York State for bad health behaviors. Poor scores in smoking, drinking and obesity contributed to the ranking, but as our Candace Hopkins reports, there is hope for those looking to improve their lifestyles.

OSWEGO, N.Y. -- A new University of Wisconsin study has confirmed what experts here already knew. When it comes to healthy living, Oswego County is the worst area in New York State.

“This is not a surprise, but a good alarming to us," said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang.

The loudest alarm for researchers was Oswego County’s smoking, drinking and obesity rates. Thirty-three percent of adults in the county smoke. That’s 19 percent higher than the national average and 15 percent higher than the state average.

Thirty-four percent of adults are obese and a whopping 23 percent admit to excessive drinking. Nationwide, that number is only eight percent and in New York State, only 17.

But why are those numbers so high? Experts say the largest factor is the poverty levels in this area. Many residents don’t have excess money to use towards building healthy lifestyles.

“Because of the low socioeconomic statuses, people don’t have the money on gym memberships to put gas in their car to get to places to buy healthier options for food. Also, without good jobs, children who grow up here are more likely to opt to go to college outside the county and not return here," said SUNY Oswego Assistant Health Promotion and Wellness Professor Weston Kensinger.

And the unemployment rate is over ten percent, meaning without jobs many people do not have health insurance.

"You're going to pinch your pennies wherever you can. If it means not getting health insurance, then that's what it means and then you don't take those preventative measures, you don't have yearly doctor’s appointments and checkups to keep you healthy, so those things all add up," said Kensinger.

And researchers say the problems are starting early. Oswego County has the second highest amount of obese students in the state. That's why county officials say it’s time to put more emphasis on healthy living in schools.

County officials say that the good news is that all of the health problems that result from these behaviors are preventable, if people are willing to change their habits. But encouraging those changes can be an uphill battle.

For more information on the services Oswego County offers to help residents make healthy life choices, visit oswegocounty.com.

To access the University of Wisconsin's entire study results, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.

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