Recent report ranks Redwood County 35 out of 85 in state


When it comes to overall health, how does Redwood County stack up against the rest of the state?

A recent county-by-county report released this past week by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows Redwood County 35th out of 85 counties studied.

The study conducted by the University of Wisconsin and funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been conducted in Wisconsin for six years, and for 2009 those conducting the research opted to take the study to the national level.

“The study seemed to work well for us and it was starting to get some attention,”?said Patrick Reming-ton, a physician at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the team conducting the study. “The foundation liked our idea and decided to have us make it a national study.”

The final rankings take into consideration a variety of factors from health outcomes, such as mortality and morbidity to health behaviors addressing issues such as tobacco and alcohol use and obesity.

The information is gleaned from a variety of national sources, said Remington, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the National Center for Educational Statistics.

“The data is collected locally,”?Remington said.

That data is complied at the national level, which then becomes the source for the study, added Remington.

As this is the first year the State of Minnesota has been involved in the study, officials from the Minnesota Depart-ment of Health are still interpreting what it all means.

According to John Stieger, of the Minnesota Department of Health, the rankings are another tool for counties to use.

“Minnesota generally ranks as one of the higher states in overall health,”?said Stieger, adding that means even the counties which are lower in the rankings are beginning at a pretty good point.

As a state, said Stieger, the thought would be to take the information and determine areas that might need to be addressed.

“The county health rankings help shine a light on the wide range of factors that influence health,” said Sanne Magnan, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health in a recent press release. “The provide a snapshot of the health of our communities and point out places where we’re doing well and places where we can improve.”

A study like this, added Stieger, is not an effort to look for bad apples, but to provide a bigger picture for each county as it looks for ways to improve.

Remington said every county was studied, but some, including two in Minnesota, did not have enough population for an accurate report to be made.

That is why only 85 of the 87 counties in Minnesota were ranked. The top county in the state was Jackson.

Genie Simon, Redwood County public health director, pointed out the county was in the top half of the state.

“The county board has always been supportive of public health,”?said Simon, adding public health has been able to address issues with tobacco use after receiving grants and the support of the board.

The recent development of the Statewide Health Improve-ment Program (SHIP) is another asset the county has to address some of the concepts addressed in the study.

Through SHIP, issues of obesity and tobacco cessation are being addressed as officials work with communities, businesses and schools to create policies and develop programs that can help with the overall health of a county.

Simon also said a home visits program through public health is addressing the wellness of newborns and their families countywide.

Simon also pointed out the hospital and clinic have consistently been on the forefront of wellness promotion.

Local communities have assets, such as grocery stories, parks and other things that also help promote overall health.

Redwood County ranked 56th in mortality, which has to do with the potential for life lost before age 75, and it ranked 15th statewide in morbidity, which is an indication of the general health status of the county. It ranked 11th in clinical care, 59th in social and economic factors (high school graduation rates, college education, unemployment and other poverty factors and ranked 69th in physical environment.

There is, Simon agreed, room for improvement.