High health rank still leaves room for improvementSt. Croix County is the second healthiest county in Wisconsin, according to the recently released County Health Rankings.
St. Croix County is the second healthiest county in Wisconsin, according to the recently released County Health Rankings.
But that doesn’t mean the local population is so healthy that efforts to improve well-being and health are unnecessary, according to Dr. Patrick Remington, director of the County Health Rankings.
“St. Croix might rank second overall on health outcomes, but it does not rank first or second on every measure,” he said. “We find that every community has some area that needs improvement, relative to others.”
A higher ranking on some factors may not mean a whole lot either, Remington said. Just because a county has a high rank compared to other counties in a particular state, that state’s overall health may be lacking and that makes some counties look better off than they actually are.
“Ranking ‘best’ may not be very good at all,” he said. “You need to consider the competition. St. Croix may rank relatively well compared to other counties in Wisconsin, but how does it compare to an ideal level.”
The annual rankings are developed by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The rankings follow health factors that, if improved, can help make communities healthier places to live, work and play.
Patrick Remington is director of the County Health Rankings project and associate dean for Public Health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He’s the brother of New Richmond attorney Jim Remington.
The rankings have been issued since 2003, but recently more attention is being drawn to the report.
The ultimate goal of the rankings is to motivate communities to take action to improve health and wellness. He said it’s encouraging that communities like New Richmond and its Vitality Initiative are stepping out to tackle such a challenge.
“The ranking helps start a conversation, but it’s up to the community to walk the talk,” he said. “The goal of the rankings is to find ways to work together to improve the health of the entire community. “
The rankings, based on the latest data available for each county, is the only tool of its kind that measures the overall health of each county in all 50 states on the multiple factors that influence health. Each county’s rank reveals a pattern of strengths and weaknesses.
Some highlights of what counties look like nationally:
* People are nearly twice as likely to be in fair or poor health in the unhealthiest counties;
* Unhealthy counties have significantly lower high school graduation rates;
* Unhealthy counties have more than twice as many children in poverty;
* Unhealthy counties have much fewer grocery stores or farmer’s markets; and
* Unhealthy counties have much higher rates of unemployment.
“The rankings really show us with solid data that there is a lot more to health than health care. Where we live, learn, work and play affect our health, and we need to use the information from the rankings to shine a spotlight on where we need to improve so we can take action to address our problems,” Remington said.
To develop the rankings, researchers used five measures to assess the level of overall health or “health outcomes” by county: the rate of people dying before age 75; the percentage of people who reported being in fair or poor health; the number of days in poor mental health; and the rate of low-birthweight infants. Researchers then looked at factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.