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Washington County Ranks 7th Healthiest in Minnesota, Study Says

The ranks, from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, measure health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

While it’s nice to be near the top, it will take plenty of work in the future to maintain Washington County’s status among the healthiest counties in the state.

That’s according to Washington County Director of Public Health Lowell Johnson, reacting to Tuesday’s news that Washington County is the seventh healthiest in the state, according to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We’re very pleased to be in that top quartile,” Johnson told Patch.

He said the study provides a “good overview” of the community, and highlights the fact that several different factors—housing, education, physical environment, jobs—weigh into the composition of a population’s health. It also opens the door for discussions about how the county can foster a strong climate in those areas, Johnson said.

“Those kinds of decisions are really important,” he said.

Among the study’s noteworthy Washington County findings:

  • 17 percent of adults smoke
  • 26 percent of adults are obese
  • 9 percent are in poor or fair health
  • 20 percent engage in excessive drinking
  • 7 percent are uninsured
  • 88 percent of adults are high school graduates
  • 81 percent of adults have some college education

Check out the full report.

Washington County had a similar ranking last year, Johnson said, and there were no surprises in the study. In addition to efforts at the county level, the area also has a strong faith community and nonprofit support system, he said.

“It’s a very caring community,” Johnson said.

The County Health Rankings, in its third year of existence, rank nearly every county in all 50 states, using a standard way to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. The rankings consider factors that affect people’s health within four categories: health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

“The County Health Rankings show us that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor’s office," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of RWJF said in a statement. "In fact, where we live, learn, work and play has a big role in determining how healthy we are and how long we live."

Still, the data is typically compiled over the previous years, and Washington County may see lingering effects of the economic downturn over the past few years, Johnson said.

“Are we going to be able to maintain this health status?” he said. “You’ve got to work hard to sustain it.”

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