2014 COUNTY HEALTH RANKINGS RELEASED
This week the fifth annual County Health Rankings were released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). This year Shawano County’s rank is 60 and Menominee County is ranked 72 out of 72 counties. The Rankings show that people living in the least healthy counties are twice as likely to have shorter lives as people living in the healthiest counties. Unhealthy counties also have nearly twice the rates of child poverty and teen births.
While the County Health Rankings indicate that Shawano and Menominee counties are at-risk for poor health when it comes to health behaviors, such as tobacco use and physical activity (Shawano is ranked 58 and Menominee 72), they also show areas of strength. Menominee County is ranked 15th in environmental factors such as air quality and water pollution. Shawano County’s rank has improved by three since last year.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in the country. The Rankings highlight data on 29 different health factors that influence health including tobacco and alcohol use, education, unemployment rates, obesity and physical activity, and housing conditions. This allows counties to see how well they are doing in positively impacting health compared to other counties in their state and also similar counties throughout the nation.
The Rankings include measures in several different areas including health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and environmental health. The purpose of this is to emphasize that a person’s health is impacted by what individuals do, where and how they live, and historical events they have experienced. New measures have been added each year as more data becomes available, further enhancing a county’s health “snapshot”. There are several new measures added to this year’s Rankings including measures on housing, transportation, and access to mental health services. “A lot of people don’t equate changes in environment or the economy to their health and well-being. The Rankings can be a powerful tool to show that changes in unemployment, education, and socio-economic status can have large impacts on health which takes years to overcome,” said Jaime Bodden, Health Officer for the Shawano-Menominee Counties Health Department.
Initiatives such as the Shawano Community Health Action Team (CHAT) and Menominee Community Engagement have formed in efforts to address a number of health factors including alcohol consumption, obesity, and teenage pregnancy. Additionally, there are several community groups already working on health issues in the area. Over the last year in Shawano County, the Safe Routes to School program has been focused on getting children physically active. The program has seen great success in children and school staff alike. Shawano Pathways has continued its efforts to bring greenways and trails to the area so that outdoor recreational opportunities are available to everyone. Community efforts have also been highly successful in Menominee County. “What The Rankings don’t show is the incredible resilience of the Menominee people. There are currently numerous initiatives aimed at improving health outcomes in our community, including partnerships between tribal and county agencies to promote trauma informed care; community engagement efforts to address youth obesity, teen pregnancy, and school readiness; and coalitions that work on reducing alcohol and other drug abuse,” says Waukau.
These and efforts like them are the first steps in positively impacting health factors. “The Rankings enable our communities to be aware of the many factors that impact our health and take action to improve our health. It can be a starting point for community groups, policy-makers, businesses, schools, parents, public health, and others to come together and take action around a health issue that’s important to them. It is our hope that by working together we can begin to improve the physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing of our community,” says Waukau.
“Health is everyone’s responsibility. Working together, we can make Shawano and Menominee Counties both healthy places where people live, work, and play,” says Bodden.
The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
See the full press release HERE.