Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How’s the health of your county? Which county is Minnesota’s healthiest? February 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:51 AM

WHICH MINNESOTA COUNTIES are the healthiest?

Intrigued by a radio report I heard Wednesday morning about a nation-wide study that ranks counties on health issues, I decided to check out my county, Rice County, Minnesota.

So I logged on to countyhealthrankings.org for results of this study from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Of the 85 out of 87 Minnesota counties that were ranked (Cook and Traverse counties were omitted because of low populations), Rice County is the 23rd healthiest. In true Minnesota fashion, I will respond, “Not too bad.”

Jackson County, which lies in extreme southwestern Minnesota along the Iowa border, rates as our state’s healthiest county. Now, if you’re from Iowa and are already inferring that Jackson County’s location next to Iowa impacted the high ranking, you likely would be wrong. Four of the nine Minnesota counties bordering the Hawkeye state are in the lower tier healthwise. So there goes that possible theory.

According to the study, Lake County, on the exact opposite corner of the state in northeastern Minnesota, is the unhealthiest.

Now, rather than attempt to explain the reasons behind the rankings, I suggest you go straight to the source and check out the information for yourself. Draw your own conclusions. And remember, as you consider results, no research is perfect and is open to interpretation.

This Minnesota map zeroes in on Rice County, my county of residence, and neighboring counties south of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

HERE, HOWEVER, ARE a few interesting summaries I pulled from this study regarding Rice County:

  • Less access to healthy foods than the average Minnesotan. Rice County rated at 22 percent access compared to 40 percent state-wide. To reach this conclusion, researchers determined the number of zip codes within a county with a healthy food outlet (grocery stores and produce stands/farmers’ markets).
  • A higher motor vehicle crash death rate—20 per 100,000 population in Rice County compared to 13 per 100,000 state-wide. This comes as no surprise to me given Rice County ranks among Minnesota’s deadliest counties for impaired driving. According to recent information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Rice ranked as the 8th deadliest county.
  • A lower teen birth rate, at 20 births per 1,000 female population, ages 15 – 19, in Rice County compared to the state value of 28.

How did your county fare? Read for yourself. This study is packed with some interesting information.

And, by the way, I have nothing against Iowa. I grew up three counties away from the borders of Iowa and South Dakota.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling