[Magazine] Scientific American. Vol. 306. No 1

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In 2006 resveratrol, the famous ingredient in red wine that replicates some of calorie restriction’s effects in mice, seemed likely to break through the barrier when it was shown to block the life-shortening consequences of high-fat diets in the rodents. But this substance, which is thought to act on enzymes known as sirtuins, later failed to extend maximum life span in mice fed normal diets. The disappointing picture suddenly brightened again when the rapamycin results were announced in mid-2009.

By the same token, studies demonstrate, a poor showing in any of these areas can sink the health of individuals or of communities—even if they have access to topflight medical facilities. The goal of the County Health Rankings project, which has given Wyandotte County low marks for health but high praise for its commitmennt to change, is to bring these hidden health factors to light and thereby help elected officials, civic leaders and community groups take concrete steps that can improve the health of local residents.

No one expects a county’s overall ranking to Their aim is to identify robust, reliable indicaimprove overnight. “Where you are on the Income: 10% tors that are measured the same way from curve isn’t as important as which direction county to county within each state for four you’re moving,” Willems Van Dijk says. Wyanbroad categories—behavior, clinical care, sodotte County was rated at or near the bottom Family and social support: 5% cioeconomic status and physical environof Kansas rankings for three years in a row Community safety: 5% ment—that research shows shape health.

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