Lake County Ranks 6th Healthiest in the State

Jim and Michele Stoecker, owners of Alex’s Washington Gardens in Highwood, stop for a break while on a bike ride. The activity from bike riding is a great way to stay and get healthy, according to the Lake County Health Department. – Stoecker family photo

by Andrew Norton

You may not know it. But if you live in Lake County you’ve made a healthy choice.

Lake County ranks the sixth place among 102 Illinois counties in 2017 for health outcomes according to a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Significantly, Lake County’s ranking has climbed from the 15th place to the current 6th place in just three years.

The outcomes are measured by length of life and quality of life.

Jim Stoecker, owner of Alex’s Washington Gardens in Highwood and neighboring eatery Ginger’s of Highwood, is an avid bicyclist. “Lake County has a lot of bicycle trails,” said the restaurateur, adding, “It’s very good for people like me to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.”

Stoecker isn’t all talk either. In fact the founder of Highwood’s successful RedHead Festival said on nice days, he takes to the trails to get to work from his home in Long Grove, about a 15 mile trek. For leisurely outings, his wife Michele often rides alongside.

Mark Pfister, executive director of the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center, said while the county is on the right track, more can be done to get it at number one.

“We continue to be one of the healthiest counties in Illinois, but we still have work to do,” remarked Pfister.

Under a new strategic plan, the health department will address four primary issues: obesity, cardiovascular disease, behavioral health and diabetes. To achieve these goals, the health department has teamed up with Live Well Lake County, which is made up of community organizations, government agencies, health care systems and and academic institutions through prevention and education.

An initiative under the plan calls for an active life style and healthy eating to reduce obesity and chronic conditions associated with it. For the fourth year in a row, for instance, the health department, in partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserves and the NorthShore University HealthSystem, is offering “Walk in Nature,” which consists of eight free walks led by a physician and a forest preserve naturalist. The program, open to the public, enables participants to enjoy Lake County’s natural resources and ask questions about health issues. For more information visit

Long Hwa-shu contributed to this story

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