That surprisingly lofty ranking is up from 11th place among Indiana's 92 counties last spring.
This latest ranking seems to adhere to the old adage -- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. After all, Putnam County doesn't rank as high as seventh in any of the seven categories used to determine overall rating.
Putnam County came out eighth in morbidity rating and 10th in mortality, but the rest of the rankings were middle of the pack at best, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's annual report, ranking the health of all Hoosier counties.
In ranking seventh overall, Putnam County also ranked 26th health behaviors, 38th in health factors, 46th in social and economic factors, 65th in clinical care and 86th in physical environment.
The County Health Rankings rank overall health for every county in all 50 states -- more than 3,000 total -- by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
The rankings pull together numerous measurements that influence overall health, including education rates, income levels, access to healthy food and access to medical care.
This year's report includes several new measures, such as how many fast-food restaurants are in a county and levels of physical inactivity among residents.
"This report is an annual check-up of the health of our counties," said State Health Commissioner and former Greencastle physician Gregory Larkin, M.D. "It is a tool to help us create a healthier Indiana. Community leaders, businesses and citizens need to work together to help improve their county's health environment, and everyone in the state will reap the benefits of good health."
According to this year's rankings, the 10 healthiest counties in Indiana are Hamilton, Boone, LaGrange, Dubois, Hendricks, Brown, Putnam, Wells, DeKalb and Adams.
The 10 counties with the lowest health outcomes are Crawford, Lake, Delaware, Jennings, Switzerland, Fayette, Sullivan, Starke, Pike and Scott.
Among Putnam County's neighbors, Hendricks fared the best at No. 5 healthiest, while Owen was 32nd, Morgan was 42nd, Montgomery ranked 52nd, Clay 56th and Parke 67th overall.
Among some of the more interesting figures, Putnam County recorded:
-- A 31% adult obesity rate (31% is the state average; 25% is the national benchmark).
-- A 22% adult smoking rate, down from 26% a year ago (24% is the state norm; 14% the national average).
-- A 30% physical inactivity rate (27% statewide; 21% nationally).
-- An 11% excessive drinking rate (16% is the state average; 8% nationally).
-- An 18% access to healthy food rate (7% is the state norm).
-- A 62% fast-food segment of restaurants (50% in state; 25% nationally).
-- An 83% high school graduation rate (84% is state average).
-- A 17% uninsured adult rate (16% is the state norm).
-- A 24% child in single-parent households rate (32% is the state average; 20% nationally).
In another interesting item gleaned from the report, figures indicate Putnam County has one primary care physician per every 1,375 residents. The state average is one physician per 889 residents, while nationally the figure is one per 631 people.
Dr. Larkin says there have been several statewide initiatives in Indiana that have taken a system-wide approach to address public health issues. The most recent is the statewide smoke-free air law that takes effect July 1, 2012.
In addition to systems approaches, the Indiana State Department of Health released the Indiana State Health Improvement Plan in 2011, which focuses on food safety, HIV and viral hepatitis, infant mortality, healthy weight, healthcare associated infections and tobacco use.
"The County Health Rankings are a valuable resource for our local health departments as they prepare for national public health accreditation," Dr. Larkin said. "Health departments and nonprofit hospitals can use these data to help develop the community health assessments and community health improvement plans that are required for the Internal Revenue Service tax rules and public health accreditation."
The goal of the accreditation program is to improve and protect the health of every community by advancing the quality and performance of public health departments.
Researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or "health outcomes" for Indiana by county: The rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, the number of days people report being in poor physical and poor mental health and the rate of low-birth weight infants.
The report explores factors that affect people's health within four categories: Health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. The health factors that were assessed included adult smoking rates, access to care, unemployment, adult obesity, teen birth rate, access to healthy foods and motor vehicle death rate.
"The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor's office. In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"These issues are not for local health departments and the medical community only," Dr. Larkin assured. "Many factors influence our health, like our levels of education and income, our access to healthy nutritious foods and our access to smoke-free air to breathe. These annual health findings further demonstrate that the best way to make a real impact in public health is to engage the entire system."
For more about information about these rankings,interested persons can view the report at www.countyhealthrankings.org.