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Report: Sarasota County Ranks Sixth Healthiest In State

Sarasota ranks highest in theTampa Bay area for quality of life, according to a national report from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For nine consecutive years, Sarasota County has maintained a top spot in a national report that looks at county health outcomes and compares it to the rest of the nation.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings Report measures health outcomes such as the length of life, health behaviors and physical environment. In the 2019 report released this week, Sarasota County ranked sixth out of Florida’s 67 counties.

Its sixth spot for 2019 is far ahead of other Tampa Bay area counties including: Manatee (19), Hillsborough (23), Pinellas (25), Polk (32) and Pasco (37).

The comprehensive ranking is compiled using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 35 different categories, ranging from the number of adults who smoke to how long it takes residents to commute to work.

The report’s researchers say a county’s health can be shaped by many factors, including race and ethnicity.

“Certain counties have more opportunities to make healthy choices than other counties,” said Ericka Burroughs-Girardi, action learning coach for the foundation. “Sarasota apparently has those opportunities for people to make those healthier choices.”

Burroughs-Girardi said even though Sarasota is a healthy county, there are still areas it needs to work on, particularly when it comes to the differences between black and white residents.

“Income makes a difference,” said Burroughs-Girardi. “For white families the median income is around $56,700. For blacks, that income is only $32,800, so it’s over a $20,000 difference.”

In Hillsborough County, the income gap is even wider with a median income for white families at $64,900 and $37,800 for black families.

She said that higher wealth in a community opens up opportunities. Better quality schools can lead to the increased likelihood of receiving a college education, she said and that can produce higher income jobs.

Rachel Smith is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2019.