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Assessment names top health issues in Goodhue County

The health of all people in Goodhue County is the subject of a newly released report. The 2017 Goodhue County Community Health Assessment identifies top health issues and offers a starting point to identify health inequities. The report is a collaborative effort that takes place every five years.

As part of the process, committee members reviewed responses and comments from 1,002 county residents who participated in a 2015 mailed survey, 65 key informant interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017, and feedback from 120 participants in an informal dot survey at this year's county fair and other summer events.

Top 10 county health issues

  1. Income/poverty
  2. Mental health/wellbeing
  3. Overweight/obesity
  4. Substance Abuse/prescription drug abuse
  5. Access to mental health services
  6. Eating habits
  7. Uninsured/underinsured
  8. Safe and affordable housing
  9. Chronic conditions
  10. Food insecurity

"We looked at health outcomes, and we also looked at what creates health," said Ruth Greenslade, Healthy Communities supervisor at Goodhue County Health and Human Services. "Low income rose to the top because the committee saw it as a root cause of so many other health issues. Poverty creates barriers to access to health care, healthy food, and other necessities, contributing to poor health."

Many of the top issues are interrelated. For example, people with lower incomes may struggle with mental health. People with lower household incomes were more likely to have a mental illness and reported they had stress, depression and problems with emotion on almost twice as many days in the last month as the average adult. As another example, obesity rates are higher among those who face housing insecurity and food insecurity.

"Substance abuse is related to so many other issues like income, mental health, and access to mental health services," Greenslade said.

The Community Health Assessment also cites a statistic from the Minnesota Department of Human Services that removing children from the home for parental drug or alcohol use has risen by 25 percent since 2015 and is now the most common reason for placing children in foster care.

"We are so thankful for all the community members and partners that have taken the time to work on this important report," said Nina Arneson, Goodhue County Health and Human Services director. "A special thank you goes to our core group for their strong leadership, partnership and commitment to improving health for all."

The core group includes Greenslade; Pam Horlitz, Mayo Clinic Health System Community Engagement Specialist; and Maureen Nelson, Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties United Way Executive Director; as well as representation from Live Healthy Red Wing because of the Red Wing Report Card.

"Addressing complex problems like we have in our top 10 list takes all of us, and it takes time and authentic partnerships," said Arneson. "We hope that organizations will use the results to set their own strategic priorities, plan programming, or apply for grant funding."

The report sets the stage for the Goodhue County Community Health Improvement Plan 2018-2023, which will describe long-term, collective efforts to improve the health of everyone in the county. The Community Health Assessment, as well as a data book with results from the 2015 mailed survey, are available on the Goodhue County website at