Mower climbs health rankings

Published 7:06 am Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mower County moved in the right direction in the state’s annual health rankings, and one local health leader hopes to have the county continuing the trend in years to come.

Mower County ranked 35th out of Minnesota’s 87 counties in the annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, up from 46th the last two years.


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“We’re looking a little better,” said Mower County Community Health Director Lisa Kocer.

The report yielded few surprises. Mower County is already working on a plan to improve health across the county. Last October, the county identified the top 10 health issues/priorities in Mower County through the Community Health Assessment.

That project is continuing with local health officials working to narrow their focus to three or four issues by this fall.

With the assessment complete, Kocer and Mower Refreshed Coordinator Sandy Anderson will continue talking with residents to compile feedback on how to improve health across the county. Kocer will then compile the discussions, the assessment and other information into a plan to be released this fall.

“It has to be a county and community initiative,” Kocer said. “It has to be everybody.”

Most of the problem areas identified in last week’s study have already come up in the assessment and other studies through the Minnesota Department of Health, according to Kocer.

“People are aware what needs to be done,” she said.

Mower ranked 35th in health outcomes, which factors the rate of collective number of years of life lost from people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, and the rate of low birth-weight infants.

“It tells me that we in Mower County are living long and we’re living a better quality of life,” Kocer said.

The county ranked 70th in health factors — up from 73 last year — which factors health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

ah.07.30.a“We obviously have work to do,” Kocer said.

Mower’s clinical care ranking dropped from 67 to 73, which means people’s access to care decreased, according to Kocer. Mower’s ratio of doctors to patients was also below the state average. Mower had 1,874 residents to every one health provider, compared to 1,116 to one in the state.

The rankings listed obesity as an issue, like it was on Mower’s previous assessment. The number of sexually transmitted diseases was up a bit, but the number of teen births improved slightly; however, Mower is still ranked higher than the state, according to Kocer.

Carver County was ranked as the healthiest county. Steele ranked fourth, Olmsted was 17th, Winona was 18th, Freeborn was 61st and Manhomen was 87th.

This is the fifth year of County Health Rankings, which are prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.