So Close, Yet So Far: Chester and Philadelphia Counties Rank Worst and First in Big PA Health Study

Sometimes you’ll come across a ranking so wrong or arbitrary or subjective, it’ll turn you off lists forever. But don’t let ranking fatigue bring you down! The respected Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Go Jets!) has released a study ranking the relative health of all 67 Pennsylvania counties. The results: #1-Chester; #Last-Philly.

On virtually every metric–car fatalities and excessive drinking excluded–Philly ranks behind Pennsylvania’s statewide averages, and far behind its suburbs. To wit:

  • Poor or fair heath: 20% Philadelphia vs. 9% Chester
  • Obesity: 32% Philadelphia vs. 21% of Chester
  • Physical Inactivity: 30% Philadelphia vs. 19% Chester
  • Low Birthweight: 11.3% Philadelphia vs. 6.8% Chester
  • Uninsured: 17% Philadelphia vs. 10% Chester

Click here for a chart detailing full metrics for Philly and the four suburbs surrounding it.


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  • Nat

    I don’t agree with these results. How are people in the burbs more active? Unless they only count intentional “working out.” People in the city are more likely to walk from one place to another or bike as transportation than the burbs. They likely don’t report that as “leisure activity.” I can see the lower number of insured people though as the mean income in Philly is likely less than Chester, Montgomery and Bucks counties since they are some of the richest in the US.

    • Brandon

      The results are correct. The big difference is the poverty. Poor people are more likely to be obese, uninsured, etc. and there are a lot of them in Philly.

      Now, if you controlled for demographics your thinking makes more sense. I would guess a middle/upper middle class person living in Center City is probably healthier than a middle/upper class person living the burbs since they walk everywhere and spend less time commuting.