County health rankings released - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

County health rankings released

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Counties across the state are learning their rankings for the overall health of Wisconsin's residents.

The annual County Health Rankings were released Wednesday by the UW Population Health Institute, assessing 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical activity and access to healthy foods.

The healthiest county in the 27 News viewing area is Iowa County, ranking 10th among Wisconsin's 72 counties. Green County follows at 14th, Dane ranking 17th and Grant County rounding out the top 20.

The research also found the quality of life in Iowa County is better than anywhere else in the state, with fewer people reporting poor health.

Iowa County Health Department Director Jenny Pritchett tells 27 News preventative care is good and teen smoking rates have gone down in the county. The department is working closely with other agencies to promote overall health, creating a group called the Iowa County Healthy Fit Coalition, to give people tools to make healthier lifestyle choices.

"We're going to look at areas that maybe are in need of sidewalks or parks, or look at our food environments to make sure we have healthy, accessible food," says Pritchett.

Iowa County plans to target key areas that do need work, including adult smoking, obesity and physical activity.

In contrast, Rock County ranked in the top 10 least healthy counties, at 62. Green Lake County ranked 63rd, Juneau at 67th, and Marquette County ranking 69th out of 72 counties in the state.

“Across Wisconsin, every community has an opportunity to improve how long and how well people are living,” Karen Timberlake, director of the UW Population Health Institute, said in a statement. “The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps help us understand where we need to focus our efforts, locally and as a state, to improve health.”

Researchers say 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 have twice as many children living in poverty and twice as many teen births.

Rock County Health Department tells 27 News the county has maintained over last year and is working to make progress in some factors. The challenge there is social factors getting in the way of healthy living, like unemployment and poverty.

Marquette County has ranked right at the bottom of the list for several years. Health department director Kathleen Meckstroth says the challenge is access to healthcare in the rural county. There is no hospital, but two new clinics have recently been added to combat access problems. The county has hired a health educator to assess what problem areas needing the most focus.

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