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New study ranks Lake County as “unhealthiest” but with a bright future

A new report reveals how counties across America stack up when it comes to health. The news is not good for Cook County’s neighbor to the west. According to the report, Lake County is ranked as Minnesota’s unhealthiest county.

The study used data from organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census and the FBI to measure “Health Outcomes.” These include early death, how people are feeling and how many babies are born at a low birth weight as well as factors such as obesity, alcohol and tobacco use, and exercise and diet habits. Social and economic factors, such as unemployment, income and community safety, also were accounted for in addition to access to health care and environmental factors.

“County Health Rankings: Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health,” a health report card for almost every one of the nation's more than 3,000 counties, has been released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute. Among those counties in Minnesota not appearing in the report is Cook County.

Even though Lake ranks at the bottom for Health Outcomes, the county finished much higher in another aspect of the report called “Health Factors.” This classification includes indicators that predict better health in the future, like quality of clinical care, health behaviors, and social and economic factors.  Lake County’s ranking of 16 out of 85 was the highest in Northeastern Minnesota.

Nationwide and state-to-state generalizations are being discouraged by the researchers, however there are some trends. Healthier counties tend to be urban and suburban, while the overwhelming majority of the 50 least-healthy counties nation-wide are rural, sparsely populated and where care is poor and the economy is depressed.