April 2, 2012
Nationwide 2012 County Health Rankings explore the health of Minnesota counties
Rankings by University of Wisconsin released during National Public Health Week, April 2-8
Minnesota’s counties are included in a report ranking the health of every county in each of the 50 states. The County Health Rankings, prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranks the overall health of counties by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. The rankings come out during National Public Health Week, an opportunity to remind Americans about the importance of public health in their lives.
Counties are ranked in two categories: health outcomes and health factors (also known as health determinants). Health outcomes include the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health and the rate of low birth-weight infants. Health factors include health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. The rankings, launched in 2010, are designed to compare the health of counties within each state; they do not compare counties in one state with counties in another state.
Local health departments in Minnesota already conduct extensive measurements of the health of their communities. The County Health Rankings are an additional tool that highlights the essential role of prevention across Minnesota.
“By reporting on the overall health of people in each county, we can begin to understand how individual health is affected by where people live. The rankings also remind us how important it is to strengthen our prevention efforts across the state,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “We spend only a fraction of the amount on prevention that we spend on medical care in this country. We need to do a better job of investing in disease prevention within communities if we really want to improve the health of Minnesotans and get a handle on rising health care costs. This is an especially important message to share during Public Health Week.”
Minnesota’s Local Public Health Act requires local health departments to conduct a comprehensive assessment and planning process every five years to identify public health challenges and strategies for improving health. “Our local health departments are continuously monitoring the health of their communities and adjusting their strategies to meet local needs,” Ehlinger added. “Local public health leadership is one reason why Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation.”
“After three years, we know that people across the nation want to know how the health of their county compares to others in their state. This annual check-up helps bring county leaders together to see where they need to improve,” said Patrick Remington, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It’s really exciting to see that by this point, the rankings are a call to action to take steps to improve the health of communities.”
The County Health Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org. Find Minnesota’s local health departments at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/ophp/system/administration/chb.cfm.