Mower drops in state’s annual health rankings

Published 10:29 am Thursday, April 5, 2012

Though Mower County may have slipped a bit, its health ranking is welcome news to local officials.

“It’s a good snapshot picture of the county’s health,” said Mower County Public Health Director Lisa Kocer. “It kind of tells the county’s health now and potentially the county’s health in the future.”

Mower County ranks 46th out of 84 counties in Minnesota, according to the 2012 County Health Rankings report by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Center. The report didn’t include three of Minnesota’s 87 counties: Traverse, Lake of the Woods and Kittson.

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Kocer said she saw several positives with the report, which accounts for a variety of factors including a county’s physical environment, health behaviors, access to clinical care, mortality and socioeconomic factors, among others. More Mower residents got diabetic and mammography screenings last year than in 2010, which Kocer attributes to an increased health awareness. In addition, Mower increased its access to health care rating.

“There’s been a lot of awareness in certain topics, certain things,” she said.

The report took a few new measurements this year, including the amount of fast food restaurants in a county and physical inactivity. Kocer said the new ratings could be why the county declined in the state’s overall health rankings. Many local organizations including Mower Refreshed and the United Way of Mower County have started health initiatives in recent years to improve the way Mower residents live, and Kocer hopes the report helps local citizens continue their efforts, as the county has one of the best mortality rates in Minnesota.

“How can we continue to live long, but live healthy lives?” she said.

Mower officials say the report comes at the perfect time, as MCPH will begin its large-scale community health assessment this spring. The assessment is done once every five years, though officials annually update county health information. County officials will survey residents on various aspects of their health and the county health rankings report helps provide a frame of reference.

“This is perfect timing for these [numbers] to come out,” Kocer said.