Washburn County ranks 67 out of 72 for Health Outcomes and 41 out of 72 for Health Factors, according to the ninth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). 

The purpose of the County Health Rankings is to help counties understand the many factors that influence health. The Rankings are unique in their ability to measure the current overall health of each county in all 50 states. They also look at a variety of measures that provide opportunities to affect the future health of communities, such as high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity, and teen births. Communities use the Rankings to garner support for local health improvement initiatives among government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, business leaders, policy makers, and the public.

Health Outcomes are where health is now: Washburn County improved from last year’s score of 68. Our quality of life is very similar to the State, but our length of life remains poor; we have too many people dying before the age of 75 (years of potential life lost measures those years lost before the age of 75). Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack) was the leading cause of death under the age of 60.    

Health Factors are the behaviors and determinants that will improve our health outcomes in the future: Washburn County improved from last year’s score of 51. However, what we need to look at isn’t really how we compare to others, but rather what improvements we ourselves made in the different measures. It’s like being in a fitness challenge with your co-workers: you might show a lot of improvement compared to the co-worker who ate a quart of chunky monkey every night for 6 weeks, but you may not have made any real improvement to your own health. Conversely, you may look pretty bad compared to the co-worker who runs marathons, but you may have lost ten pounds, thereby improving your own health. 

Taken that way, we made some small gains, but we need to continue to improve our health factors if we want to improve our outcomes. Good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care, including housing, education, jobs, access to healthy foods, and more. Substance Abuse plays a huge part in many of these factors, which is why it is identified as the number one priority for Washburn County in the 2015-2020 Community Health Improvement Plan. The Washburn County Health & Human Services Department will continue to work with Schools, Law Enforcement, Medical Providers, and other Community partners to reduce the burden of substance abuse in Washburn County in order to continue to improve our health outcomes.

The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org

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