How healthy are we? Report ranks Minnesota's 87 counties


A new ranking released Wednesday measures how Minnesota counties stack up against each other – and the nation.

The County Health Rankings measured 29 factors, including childhood poverty, smoking, college attendance, physical inactivity and access to healthcare, to compare the health of counties within each state, KARE 11 says. The fifth annual report is published annually to help counties measure ways to improve the overall health of its residents, the Washington Post says.

The healthiest county in Minnesota: Carver County, which ranks No. 1 in overall health outcomes, which looks at length and quality of life, among other factors. Olmsted county ranks No. 1 in overall health factors, which looks at health behaviors (like tobacco use), access to clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

Here are Minnesota's top five healthiest counties:

Overall health outcomes:

1. Carver
2. McLeod
3. Waseca
4. Steele
5. Nobles

Overall health factors:

1. Olmsted
2. Washington
3. Carver
4. Nicollet
5. Scott

Of Minnesota's 87 counties, here are the least healthiest:

Overall health outcome:

87. Mahnomen
86. Cass
85. Mille Lacs
84. Traverse
83. Wadena

Overall health factors:

87. Mahnomen
86. Clearwater
85. Beltrami
84. Cass
83. Mille Lacs

How does Minnesota size up against counties nationwide? The Washington Post looked at 10 factors that determine the health of a county and a few Minnesota counties were scattered among the lists. Here's a breakdown:

The highly-educated, wealthier counties have the lowest number of children (under age 18) in poverty, the Washington Post notes. Child poverty percentage is a social-economic factor that helps determine a county's overall health factor.

Here's a look at the counties with the lowest child poverty percentage:

1. Falls Church City, Virginia – 3 percent of children in poverty
2. Los Alamos, New Mexico – 4 percent of children in poverty
3. Douglas, Colorado – 4 percent
4. Loudoun, Virginia – 4 percent
5. Hunterdon, New Jersey – 5 percent
6. Carver, Minnesota – 5 percent
7. Morris, New Jersey – 5 percent
8. Monroe, Illinois – 6 percent
9. Hamilton, Indiana – 6 percent
10. Lincoln, South Dakota – 6 percent

High poverty, bad air and high obesity rates contribute to premature deaths, health officials say. This list ranks counties with the lowest number of premature death years:

1. Polk, Nebraska
2. Presidio, Texas
3. Loudoun, Virginia
4. Eagle, Colorado
5. Yellow Medicine, Minnesota
6. Lincoln, South Dakota
7. Dickey, North Dakota
8. Fairfax, Virginia
9. Douglas, Colorado
10. Somerset, New Jersey

Health officials say a healthy life begins at birth. Birth weight helps determine a county's overall health outcome. Here's a look at the counties with the lowest number of low-weight (less than 2,500 grams) babies:

1. Boundary, Idaho – 2.9 percent with low birthweight
2. Cedar, Nebraska – 3.3 percent
3. San Juan, Washington – 3.8 percent
4. Lac qui Parle, Minnesota – 4.0 percent
5. Davis, Iowa – 4.1 percent
6. Jefferson, Iowa – 4.1 percent
7. Osceola, Iowa – 4.2 percent
8. Valdez-Cordova, Alaska – 4.2 percent
9. Hamlin, South Dakota – 4.3 percent
10. Wilkin, Minnesota – 4.3 percent

The number of chlamydia infections in residents contributes to a county's overall health factors. The following counties have the lowest chlamydia (STD) rates per 100,000 residents:

1. Pulaski, Indiana – 37 STD rate
2. Mariposa, California – 39 STD rate
3. Brown, Indiana – 40 STD rate
4. Morgan, Utah – 41 STD rate
5. Marshall, Minnesota – 42 STD rate
6. Morgan, Kentucky – 43 STD rate
7. Meeker, Minnesota – 43 STD rate
8. Vernon, Wisconsin – 43 STD rate
9. Cedar, Nebraska – 46 STD rate
10. Madison, Idaho – 48 STD rate

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