Newspaper article

County Health Rankings Reveal a North-South Divide in Minnesota

Newspaper article

County Health Rankings Reveal a North-South Divide in Minnesota

Article excerpt

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released their annual County Health Rankings on Wednesday.

The rankings use a variety of sources to compile county-level data on 35 measurements, including quality of life, health behaviors, medical care, and social and economic factors. Each county receives two scores: one for health outcomes (an indication of the current health of the county's population) and another for health factors (an estimate of how healthy that population will be in the future).

For the first time in the project's six-year history, the rankings include income inequality as one of the health factors.

Minnesota overall

As it has in past years, Minnesota scores higher than the national average on almost all of the measures. For example, the percentage of babies born in Minnesota with a low birth weight is 6.5 percent, compared to 8 percent nationally. And only 19 percent of Minnesotans aged 20 and older report that they don't engage in leisure-time physical activity compared to 27 of adults percent nationally. In addition, 14 percent of Minnesota's children under the age of 18 live in poverty, compared to 24 percent nationally.

On the new measurement -- income inequality -- Minnesota also did better than the national average, but only slightly. The disposable income of a Minnesota household at the 80th percentile was 4.3 times higher than that of a household at the 20th percentile. Nationally, it's 4.4 times higher.

Minnesota scored lower than the national average, however, on two health behaviors: the percentage of adults who admit to binge drinking (19 percent vs. 16 percent nationally) and the number of newly diagnosed chlamydia cases (336 per 100,000 population vs. 291 per 100,000 nationally). The state also has more air pollution and severe housing problems (such as high housing costs and lack of plumbing) than the national average.

In the social and economic category, Minnesota scored better than the national average on all but two health factors: the percentage of ninth-graders who go on to graduate from high school within four years (78 percent in Minnesota vs. 85 percent nationally) and the rate of violent crime (229 offenses per 100,000 population in Minnesota vs. …

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