City counties ranked healthier than rural!

Many people think of the city lifestyle as unhealthy, associating it with noise, pollution, crime, dense populations, a fast pace, and high stress levels. Many aspire to leaving the city for the country and the healthier lifestyle they think more tranquility brings. Fresh air, open spaces and chirping birds should be conducive to a much healthier lifestyle, or so the thinking goes

But, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano, a new study seems to dispel those notions.

Cities once infamous for pollution, crime, crowding and infectious diseases have cleaned up their act.

"They may have a better educational system," says Patrick Remington, project director of County Health Rankings, a report published by the University of Wisconsin that ranks more than 3,000 counties nationwide against others in their states.

"They may have more job opportunities," Remington continued. "All these things come together to make urban areas (and), in particular, suburban communities, healthier than their rural counterparts."

The report found that 48 percent of the healthiest counties were urban or suburban, while 84 percent of the unhealthiest counties were rural.

"New York City," says Remington, "is one of the densest urban areas in the country, but it has a reasonably good health outcome. It has policies that encourage people to get out and walk, and clean indoor air policies, and policies that that help people pick healthy foods."

Urbanites like Gina Kamburowski, who lives in Manhattan, say city life makes it convenient to stay healthy. "I have my gym," she says, "which is about three blocks away from me. I have yoga, which is also about three blocks away from me. There really isn't an excuse to, to not work out and not be healthy for me."

The city has its own problems, such as higher rates of sexually-transmitted diseases, lower birth rates, and more excessive drinking.

And city dwellers say their lives are more stressful. "It kind of fluctuates between being incredibly hectic to moderately busy," says Kamburowski, "but I'm definitely on the go morning, noon and night."

Just 90 miles north of New York City is Sullivan County - the home of Woodstock. With farms, fresh air, mountain streams.

But, in the Catskill Mountains, health ratings aren't what you might expect.

"The more economically challenged an area, the less of an ability (its residents) have to access quality healthcare regularly," points out County Manager David Fanslau, who tells the story of a struggling community.

"Sullivan County," he notes, "has a very high rate of poverty. Our unemployment rate is higher than the rest of Hudson Valley in New York State."

Dr. Jeffrey Weinstein says, though agriculture and farmed goods are abundant, residents are no longer necessarily eating farm-to-mouth.

"We see a lot more obesity and diabetes," he says, "because, with a poorer economic status, the food that is cheaper is usually the unhealthy food."

Rural residents, like those in Sullivan County, are more likely to be obese, sedentary, and smoke cigarettes. They also face higher rates of diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

Says Fanslau, "The (more the ) ability of a rural county such as Sullivan to give access to preventative healthcare, for preventative medicine, the better off they will be, the better off the county will be."

Sullivan County is implementing health initiatives like those found in New York City.

"What we really want," says Remington, "is people to understand is that their own health can be affected by where they live -- that it takes a healthy community to really have a healthy person and a healthy lifestyle."

County Health Ratings says the healthiest people of all are suburbanites. They generally rate their own health the highest and have fewer premature deaths than either their urban or rural counterparts.

The rankings are intended to motivate communities to become healthier places for people to live, learn, work and play.