Le Sueur County ranks in top 11% in state health ranking checkup


The good news: Le Sueur County is still in the top 15  of Minnesota’s 87 counties for the healthiest places to live.
The bad news: the county dropped from 2012 in one major area evaluated in the fourth annual county Health Rankings, released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The report ranks the overall health of counties by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live.
According to Le Sueur County Public Health Director, Cindy Shaughnessy, the report ranks both health outcomes and health factors that highlight the wide array of issues that determine health in local communities. 
“Many different factors impact the health of a community, including the environment, education, jobs, access to health care and individual behaviors,” she said.
Out of 87 counties, Le Sueur County ranked 11th in “health outcomes”, down from 9th last year. The category considers premature death (rate of people dying before age 75), the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, and the low birth weights for infants, along with similar data. 
Shaughnessy said last year’s rate was a bit better and said that morbidity data that measures the quality of life, how well we are living and are self reported measures.
Over the last four years of reporting, the county ranked 9th in 2012, 14th in 2011, and 13th in 2010.
“We are certainly proud of ranking in the top 13 percent out of 87 counties this year, but know that there is much we can do to improve the health of our communities,” Shaughnessy said. 
In the second major category, “health factors” Le Sueur County improved with an overall score of 39, compared to 49 last year. This category covers health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
Over the last four years, the county ranked 49th in 2012, 44th in 2011, and 43rd in 2010.
Shaughnessy said some of the factors that improved and probably contributed to the improvement in this ranking included: Health Behaviors,  the percent of adults who smoke went from 16 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2013 (overall in Minnesota, 17 percent of adults smoke); Social and Economic factors: The high school graduation rate in Le Sueur County raised from 77 percent in 2012 to 85 percent in 2013 (the Minnesota rate is 77 percent) and the percent of children under the age of 18 living in poverty dropped from 12 percent in 2012 to 11 percent in 2013 ( the percent of children living in poverty in Minnesota overall is 15percent); Physical Environment: Overall Le Sueur County ranks number three with more access to recreational facilities (double the Minnesota rate) and a lower percentage of restaurants that are fast food (30 percent compared to Minnesota's 47 percent).
One of the ways Le Sueur County Public Health has worked on improving the health of the county’s communities was through the SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) grant.  Shaughnessy said the county received funding in 2010 to 2011 from the state of Minnesota to work on reducing smoking and obesity in our communities.
“We partnered with our schools, worksites and health care facilities to implement policy, system and environmental change,” she said. “Unfortunately, the program funding was cut by 70 percent for 2012-2013 and only half of the state received grants. We did not receive funding. We are excited to see that the governor has included funding in his budget proposal this year, which would bring SHIP back to a statewide effort to improve the health of our communities.”
Data shows that Minnesota spends almost $7,000 per person each year on health care and SHIP costs less than $3 per Minnesotan.  
“SHIP is an investment ‘upstream’ to increase healthy behaviors and prevent the leading causes of illness and death; tobacco, poor nutrition and physical inactivity,” Shaughnessy said. 
In a news release, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Health Commissioner, said local public health leadership is one reason why Minnesota consistently  ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation.
Rice County
Rice County ranked 22nd in health outcomes, up from 2012’s rank of 32. Similarly, the county also improved in the category of health factors by scoring 10 in 2013, compared to 17 last year. Rice County ranked significantly better both years than Le Sueur’s 39 this year.
Overall, Rice County residents reported more poor physical health days (3.2) compared to Le Sueur (2.5), and more mental health days (3.0) than Le Sueur (1.8). 
However, Rice County was better with adult smoking (9 percent) compared to Le Sueur (14 percent) and adult obesity (24 percent) compared to Le Sueur’s (30 percent).