Local counties improve health rankings

A few local counties are getting healthier.

The County Health Rankings report from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranks all of the counties in the state based on several health factors.

Buffalo – 9
Jackson – 45
La Crosse – 15
Monroe – 59
Trempealeau – 29
Vernon – 28

*Out of 72 counties in Wisconsin: Buffalo, La Crosse and Trempealeau counties all improved from last year, with Buffalo County making a significant jump from 31st last year to ninth this year.

There are roughly 60 different factors that make up a county’s health ranking. All of them fall under two headings; health outcomes and health factors.

Health factors is an area where La Crosse County ranks well, and local health officials say that means good things for the future.

“The Population Health Institute likes to say that’s the number that we should be looking at, as that is our future health. If we do well on those measures, our future health should come along as well,” Brenda Rooney, chair of the Population Health Committee, said.

The county rankings report looks at more than just the traditional nutrition, physical activity and obesity. It also uses social and economic factors such as the unemployment rate, number of children living in poverty or in low-income families.

All areas La Crosse County improved.

“We’ve scored better than we have in the past and so that’s something that is a good sign and it’s also a way for us to look at that as an important component in looking at health,” Catherine Kolkmeier, La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium director, said.

La Crosse County Health Department Director Jen Rombalski said while the improved ranking is a good sign the county is headed in a healthy direction, the amount of sexually transmitted infections is one area she hopes to see improvement.

“I think we need to be careful with making sure we’re using protection and abstinence, if that’s appropriate for you, using protection and barriers. Making sure we’re not spreading disease through sexual contact is really important,” Rombalski said.

La Crosse County did see a slight increase in the smoking rate and the obesity rate. The county ranks second in clinical care, thanks in part to the number of health care providers and a low uninsured rate.