Philly region's counties ranked by health — or is it wealth?

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The County Health Rankings compare the health of counties’ citizens within each state on a variety of measures. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

The influence of income, education, and other social factors is the clearest pattern in the latest annual rankings of health by county, with the upscale suburban counties of Bucks, Chester, and Montgomery all making the state's top 10, and Philadelphia  last at 67.

Middle-income Delaware County places slightly better than middle for Pennsylvania. Ditto Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester  Counties compared with the rest of New Jersey, according to the eighth annual County Health Rankings released Wednesday.

The project, a joint effort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute, crunches large amounts of data with the goal of encouraging local leaders to support policies that improve health.

Counties are ranked in two ways: Health outcomes are based on length and quality of life (Chester County was No. 1 in the state). Health factors, which  contribute to outcomes, are based on a range of measures, from smoking rates to poverty and availability of parks and recreation (Montgomery County was No. 1).

An alternative scorecard — a comparison of big cities based on public policy, which impacts citizens' future health — was released last month by a different organization.  Philadelphia came out in the top quarter of the CityHealth rankings. (They did not  compare most cities within their states. The County Health Rankings, on the other hand, are meaningful comparisons only within states.)