Last year when Rice County was ranked the county out of Minnesota's 87 counties, Rice County Community Health Services Director Anna Haubrich said there was always room for improvement.
There's a little more room this year—Rice County dropped to the 32nd healthiest county, according to the County Health Rankings, a collaborative effort of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2010, the first year this annual report was published, Rice County ranked 23rd.
Rice County received its best ranking of second in health behaviors, a subcategory of health factors. Considerations for that category include adult smoking (11 percent of county residents), adult obesity (24 percent), excessive drinking (16 percent), motor vehicle crash death rate (15 per 100,000 population), sexually transmitted infections (191 per 100,000) and teen birth rate (21 per 1,000). All those were down from 2011, except for teen birth rate, which stayed the same.
Haubrich told Northfield Patch last year that the county has worked hard in recent years to combat smoking and encourage exercise and better diet. Being on the right side of those three issues, Haubrich said, helps people avoid chronic disease.
Rice County's worst ranking is in the social and economic category, where it ranked 58th. Considered in this category are the unemployment rate (8.1 percent), children in poverty (12 percent), inadequate social support (17 percent) and children in single-parent homes (26 percent).
Rounding out the assessment was a 25th ranking for clinical care and 39th ranking for physical environment, which considers air pollution, access to healthy food, and the number of fast food restaurants.
Though it's only one report, Haubrich said that it's best to take it—and other assessments—at face value, regardless of the results.
“I look at what they look at to get to these numbers and I think it’s pretty thorough,” she said. “I don’t look it as a criticism … I look it as a tool to improve."
Dakota County was ranked the county. Steele County was ranked No. 1.
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