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June 20, 2021

6/10/2021 4:37:00 PM
Chisago County continues to rise in Minnesota health rankings

The national County Health Rankings is a statistical tool that was begun 10 years ago and has been used to compare health factors and outcomes across the U.S., using data for every county. The report has allowed public health policy-makers to track health measurements in their own county on an apples-to-apples level with other counties.  

The good news is that Chisago County has seen steady improvement in its rank within the 87 Minnesota counties. For 2021 we are in the top 25 percent.  Chisago is number 21 in overall ranking for Health Factors and number 23 for Health Outcomes.

Chisago was #50 and #45 in 2015.   

When the report first began in 2010 as a product of a national committee of public health workers brought together by the Wisconsin University system and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation— Chisago County was #48 in Factors and #54 in Outcomes of Minnesota counties.

 The improvement in ranking is well received at county headquarters for Public Health.  Administrator Courtney Wehrenberg said, “The past 10 years have brought many challenges but our ability to adapt and stay consistent with our mission has helped us play a role in improving the overall health of the community.”
The Rankings press release describes the purpose of the data is to “...provide guidance, and examples to elevate how the conditions where we live learn work and play shape our health.”  

A statement from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation “to the field”  released with this year’s report;  says the rankings are at the point where they’ll see some refinement and the role of the analysis will be re-examined. Those working behind the scenes will “...explore new data sources and measures...to more effectively capture differences in opportunities as we take a deeper dive into the drivers of health and equity.”

Wehrenberg sees that happening in public health as well.  

She said over the decade staff have learned the importance of the ‘built environment’ in people’s health. Enhancing food security, using the statewide health improvement program for capital expenditures(SHIP) and even having access to the Internet are  social determinants of health.

Internet use allows for ordering food, connecting with a healthcare provider, emotional support and staying informed.

Covid-19 highlighted many systemic unresolved areas that create disparities in health.   The Health Rankings background information concluded that increasingly the conversations have moved towards “...looking at multi layered social, economic, and structural factors.”

Not every criteria that is weighed in this report can be addressed easily.  Chisago County, for instance, has some data points it may or may not be able to overcome through policy alone.

The fact the county is not ranked even higher in comparison to Minnesota Counties,  could be due to factors the community may never be able to change.
The lengthy commute to places of work in the metro from the majority of residents in Chisago County,  works against the ranking.  The jobs are elsewhere. For the past decade this issue has been a focus of those in economic development but not overly successfully.

For some reason the air quality in the county is affected negatively by “particulate matter” that impacts health.

The county has had some municipal water consumption advisories (metals etc.) that also trigger concern.

Continued relatively heavy use of tobacco and county obesity count (from diabetes databases) also hold-back the county from rising towards the top of Minnesota counties as well.  How many years has the war on fat and nicotine been waged?

Alcohol related vehicle crash percentages are higher than the state norm here as well, and may be attributed to having two highways I-35 and 8 and their crash statistics.  How do policymakers impact incidents of crashes that may not even involve locals?

Wehrenberg points out that Public Health has been and will continue to be at the table in discussions about issues that may not appear to be about health at first glance.  Housing, for example. “Most often the things in our everyday lives are connected to our health,” she remarked.

Scrutiny of Healthy Behaviors which is part of “Factors’ rankings— is measured by access to doctors, exercise and open air recreation opportunities so parks and trails belong in the conversation too.

One thing the county has working  in its favor to keep improving on ranking— is the cooperative spirit.  

Wehrenberg said Law Enforcement, schools, EMS they all share Public Health goals.  “We have worked hard to connect and build strong relationships with our  partners to strengthen and maximize outcomes...a major focus of our department is collaboration and partnership with other organizations,” she concluded.

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