WASHINGTON - Counties and municipalities in northern Virginia tend to be healthier than their counterparts in the southern part of the state, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin researchers. It ranks counties by several health factors and other areas such as education, access to health care, and unemployment.
The report declared Fairfax County the healthiest area overall, followed by Arlington and Loudoun, both in northern Virginia; Albemarle, in central Virginia; and York, in eastern Virginia.
At the bottom of the list is the city of Petersburg, whose premature death rate was more than double the state average and four times higher than Fairfax County. Petersburg also was last in behaviors such as adult smoking and obesity and physical inactivity, and worst in social and economic factors such as education, unemployment and poverty.
Others among the unhealthiest areas were the city of Emporia, Buchanan County, Dickenson County, and the city of Franklin.
Several new measures in this year's report include how many fast-food restaurants a county has, the levels of physical inactivity among residents, and premature death trends over the previous decade.
Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean for public health at the Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said the rankings are "a call to action to take steps to improve the health of communities."
Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun have filled the top three spots in order in each of the survey's three years.
Fairfax was listed first in the lowest number of premature deaths. Arlington was at the top in terms of health behavior, and the report listed Loudoun as best for social and economic factors.
In Maryland, the report declares Howard County the healthiest overall, followed by Montgomery County. Frederick County ranks fourth, Anne Arundel County 10th and Prince George's County 15th.
Click here to see the full rankings for the area and elsewhere in the country.
Health Rankings: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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