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County makes gains in health rankings

Goodhue County rose 28 places last year to rank 40th in Minnesota for healthy behaviors, but it continues to lag in some areas, according to a new report.

Despite improving behaviors in Goodhue County — which ranked 81 out of 87 Minnesota counties in 2010 — smoking, obesity and excessive drinking remain above the state average, Goodhue County Health and Human Services Department says.

“There is always room for improvement and we have programs at Health and Human Services addressing the tobacco and obesity rates in Goodhue County,” according to HHS Director Nina Arneson in a news release.

The numbers are part of the 2014 County Health Rankings, a national comparison of public health by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Rankings are based on a variety of health factors, including community safety, environmental quality and access to clinics.

Goodhue County also climbed 10 places to the 43rd spot for health outcomes, which measures the length and quality of life for county residents. HHS credits slight decreases in the number of babies with low birthweight and reported “poor physical health days” for the improved score.

“We are fortunate to live in an area of the state where we enjoy good quality of life and high-quality clinical care,” Arneson said. “As part of the quality-of-life measure, I was pleased to see the continued decline in the percentage of low-birthweight babies in our county.”

Additionally, the county’s overall health factors ranking grew slightly to the 24th spot. Meanwhile nearby Olmsted County placed first and Washington, Wabasha and Dakota Counties finished in the top 10.

@Sub heads:Pierce County rankings

@Normal1:Across the river, Pierce County ranked ninth overall in health outcomes and 10th in health factors for Wisconsin counties.

Health Officer Sue Galoff said obesity rates and alcohol use are among the top concerns for future improvement.

The report has collected data from over 3,000 counties across the U.S. since the program began in 2009, according to its website. The goal is to provide information and support for public health initiatives in local communities.

The full report can be viewed at

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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