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Report Ranks Wisconsin's Most, Least Healthy Counties

A just released study of the relative health of Wisconsin counties shows a correlation between the quality of food people eat and their overall health and longevity. (warrengoldswain/iStockphoto)
A just released study of the relative health of Wisconsin counties shows a correlation between the quality of food people eat and their overall health and longevity. (warrengoldswain/iStockphoto)
March 21, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – A new report indicates rural counties in Wisconsin and across the nation tend to have higher rates of premature death, smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen births.

Large urban counties have lower smoking and obesity rates, and large suburban counties have the lowest rates of child poverty and teen births.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released the annual County Health Rankings, showing how counties compare on more than 30 factors that influence health.

"People with higher incomes can afford better food,” points out Karen Timberlake, director of the UW Population Health Institute. “They can drive a safer car. They can live in a neighborhood that has maybe more amenities, is easier to walk around in, or safer to walk around in."

Timberlake says there are decades of data showing that those with more education and higher income tend to live longer, healthier lives.

The report says the five healthiest counties in Wisconsin are Ozaukee, Calumet, St. Croix, Pierce and Pepin.

The five least healthy are Menominee, Milwaukee, Washburn, Forest and Sawyer counties.

The report is available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Timberlake says there's no one solution to achieving a goal of longer, healthier lives for everyone. She says both the public sector and the private sector have to be involved in working toward better outcomes.

"Public policy is important to our health,” she states. “It's important to our well-being, but so is private-sector policy.

“So are the choices that our employers make about what kind of food they serve in cafeterias. Do they allow paid sick leave so parents can stay home with sick children?"

According to Timberlake, communities can work together to improve the quality of food available in schools and workplaces, and to improve abilities to walk and bike to more public and private places.

"If a community is motivated to work on improving high school graduation rates, that's a great place to start,” she points out. “It really doesn't matter where communities start. What matters is that they take action on one or more of these factors that influence health."


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI