Health rankings reported

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer

Sherburne County is rising in a set of health rankings when compared with other Minnesota counties.

According to data compiled and studied by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based in Princeton, N.J., with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, Sherburne County ranks 28th among 84 Minnesota counties for “health outcomes” in 2012.

Data that determine the “health outcomes” rankings in the study include premature death counts as well as individual reports on overall health, the number of days when persons are feeling ill either physically or mentally, and frequency of low birth weights.

Sherburne County received a composite ranking of 32nd for health outcomes in 2011, up from 34th in 2010.

The county ranks 50th in the study for “health factors” in 2012. Those include social and economic factors (a category where the county ranks 19th) including high school graduation rates, college education, unemployment and poverty levels. Clinical care is a separate category, where the county ranks 42nd, combining data such as percentages of insured vs. uninsured residents, ratios of primary care physicians to all residents, and frequencies of mammograms and diabetic screenings.

Sherburne County is 62nd for its physical environment including data on air pollution, access to recreational facilities, and density of “fast food” restaurants. The county is 80th for “health behaviors,” exceeding statewide averages for percentages of residents who are obese, who are physically inactive, who smoke and who drink alcohol excessively.

The state is supporting Sherburne County Health & Human Services in efforts to influence residents’ choices on nutrition and other health factors. The county received a grant to enter the Statewide Health Improvement Program through June 2011, and was awarded funds to continue SHIP initiatives in 2012.

With those state dollars, the county has worked with local communities to establish “Safe Routes to School” for biking and walking students. Also, their efforts have passed through school doors into classrooms, where teachers are being encouraged to add physical activity to their students’ daily routines, and into vending areas where officials are looking to increase healthful food options.

“Because we’re such a young community (in Elk River School District 728), the schools have been a great partner to promote nutrition and exercise,” said Kara Zoller, health promotion supervisor for Sherburne County.