March 20, 2013
Nationwide 2013 County Health Rankings explore the health of Minnesota counties
Minnesota's counties are included in a report ranking the health of every county in each of the 50 states. This is the fourth year of County Health Rankings, which is prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and ranks the overall health of counties by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
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.
"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," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "The rankings remind us that we live in communities, and that if our community is healthy, we're more likely to be healthy ourselves."
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.
"These rankings can help further the conversation between communities and local health departments that are constantly 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." Minnesota has 50 Community Health Boards (CHBs), 25 of which are stand-alone county boards, 21 multi-county or city-county boards, and four independent city boards. CHBs are primarily funded with local tax revenues but also receive some state funding.
The rankings also shed light on the fact that different counties and parts of the state wrestle with different health challenges. There is a concentration of counties in northern Minnesota with rankings in the bottom quartile of the rankings for health outcomes. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) are currently using federal Community Transformation Grant funds to work with local partners in this region to create a healthier future for northern Minnesota.
"When we see these health differences across the state, it becomes clear that we need to invest in the Statewide Health Improvement Program, so that we can have the resources needed to implement a statewide approach that at the same time relies on local expertise to create an approach tailored to each community," Ehlinger said.
After receiving $47 million in its first two years, SHIP received a 70 percent cut to $15 million for fiscal years 2012-13. It is now providing community grants to just over half the state. For fiscal years 2014-15, Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a $40 million budget for SHIP that would again make the program statewide.
The County Health Rankings are available at http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/. Find Minnesota's local health departments at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/ophp/system/administration/chb.cfm.