The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 13, 2014

Area counties fare well in health rankings

Nicollet, Waseca, Le Sueur counties get high marks

When asked about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's recent pair of county health rankings, and the fact that her county ranks rather highly in both, Nicollet County Public Health Director Mary Hildebrandt is quick to be modest.

"The difference between being ranked No. 1 and ranked No. 87 is really small because we're a healthy state," Hildebrandt said.

Modesty aside, Nicollet County and a few others (Waseca and Le Sueur counties, especially) fared well in the study.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based near the campus of Princeton University in New Jersey, teams up with the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute for its annual study of every county in every state in America.

Using health indicators such as smoking and diabetes rates, they come up with a pair of rankings.

One of the rankings is health outcomes, which "represent how healthy counties are within the state." The health outcome rankings are based on two types of measures: how long people live and how healthy people feel while alive.

The other rankings are on health factors, which represent "what influences the health of a county." They are based on four types of measures: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and physical environment factors.

Locally, the best overall ranking when considering both was Nicollet County, which ranked ninth in health outcomes and fourth in health factors.

Waseca ranked third in health outcomes and 46th in health factors. Le Sueur County was 15th in outcomes and 31st in factors. Blue Earth County meanwhile, ranked 30th in outcomes and 19th in factors. Tops in the state on the health outcomes ranking was Carver County. Tops on the factors ranking was Olmsted County. Worst on both was Mahnomen County, all of which sits within the White Earth Indian Reservation. Mahnomen County has the highest poverty rate in the state at 23.6 percent.

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