City is among best for women’s health



Self Magazine has declared New Haven one of the most healthful cities in the country for women. Published in its November issue, the decision was based on over 40 criteria, including access to medical care, exercise opportunities and healthful eating. The study considered the New Haven-Meriden area, ranking it 14 out of 200 cities.

Self Magazine polled readers and employed a panel of experts to rank hundreds of possible criteria. Burlington, Vt. was named the most healthful city for women. New Haven was named for having the best medical care, which boosted its ranking significantly.

“I think the hospital health definitely contributed to New Haven’s ranking,” Donna Fennessy, who reported on the ranking for Self, said. “The 500 medical students, the residents — added to the already large staff that the hospital has — Yale-New Haven Hospital is a superb and top-rated hospital.”

Fennessy said the study focused directly on health related issues — examining rates of death and disease, health care, environment and community, lifestyle, and women’s living situations. She did not specify which rankings were the most important.

Other favorable statistics included New Haven’s high ratio of Ob-Gyns — 24 per 100,000, as opposed to the national average of 15. New Haven also has a low rate of sexually transmitted diseases, and an average body mass index of 27, below the national average of 27.2. The report used data from the American Hospital Association, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau.

William Gombeski, Director of Marketing and Communications for Yale-New Haven said a new health-awareness program at the hospital also contributes to women’s health in New Haven. The Women’s Heart Advantage Program aims to educate women and health care providers about heart disease, the number one health risk for women.

“We’ve worked to teach women to be assertive and aggressive in getting good heart care,” Gombeski said. “Because of our work, in this part of the country, you’re much more likely to be taken seriously when you walk in with symptoms [of heart disease].”

Loretta DiPietro, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale School of Medicine, was asked by Self Magazine to rank the criteria in the study used to evaluate various cities, though she was not informed of how the final decision was made.

DiPietro said the inclusion of Yale in the statistics about the city would not provide an entirely representative evaluation of New Haven.

“I can’t agree or disagree — I don’t know where any of those numbers came from,” DiPietro said. “If you count Yale students and Yale faculty, it will drive up the educational achievement. If you remove that from the equation — I don’t know that New Haven — would have the lowest STD prevalence [for example].”

Fennessy said she was not aware of how the data was broken down or whether statistics included the Yale campus.

In her ranking decisions, DiPietro chose to weigh socioeconomic and political issues more heavily than ratios of doctor availability.

“I ranked them from a public health perspective,” DiPietro said. “It doesn’t matter how many hospitals you have. That wasn’t a high priority in my mind, or the number of Ob-Gyns — but preventive services are very important.

DiPietro said she emphasized aspects such as the mean income of women in cities, the number of businesses owned by women and daycare options.

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