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Erie, Niagara counties among least healthy in New York State, national ranking shows

Conventional wisdom says Buffalo is on the upswing, but an annual survey suggests that’s not so for health.

Erie and Niagara counties, along with three others in the region, ranked among the least healthy in the state in a national ranking of health released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, a project funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The results placed the five counties among the bottom 15 for New York State’s 62 counties for health outcomes. Those outcomes include premature deaths, low-birth-weight babies and reports of health status.

Besides Erie and Niagara, the other three Western New York counties among the bottom 15 in those categories are Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua.

Three counties – Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Orleans – landed in the bottom 15 for health factors such as smoking, obesity, physical activity and access to physicians.

Nationally, a key finding is that rural counties have experienced the highest rates of premature death for many years, while urban counties continue to show improvement.

Rural counties have higher rates of smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen births, as well as higher numbers of uninsured adults than their urban counterparts, the ranking showed.

“The County Health Rankings show how important it is to examine all the conditions that impact well-being and can help families thrive,” Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the foundation, said in a statement.

This year’s ranking includes new measures on residential segregation and drug-overdose deaths.

Erie County ranked among the most racially segregated in the state. Niagara County showed one of the highest rates of drug-overdose deaths at 17 per, 100,000.