Walworth County moves up in health rankings

Ranks 18 out of Wisconsin's 72 counties

(Published Jan. 22, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)

Walworth County ranks 18 out of Wisconsin's 72 counties for overall health, according to a recently released study.

Since 2003, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has published results of its research describing and ranking the current state of health factors in the state of Wisconsin and its 72 counties.

The report is based on state and federal data sources including the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the Census Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.

According to a Walworth County Health Department news release, Walworth County ranked 18 of 72 counties overall for population health for 2006. This is an improvement from 34 in 2005. It is important to note that no 2006 data were used in the analysis; the improvements in ranking in 2006 are the result of additional 2005 data not considered in the previous 2005 health rankings.

"This report is good news for the residents of Walworth County, although it is a 'snapshot' in time," Pat Grove, MS, health officer and manager of the Public Health Division of the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services was quoted as saying in the news relase.. "We must continue to address the factors that contribute to improved health status in the county through our programs and services."

David Thompson, PhD, interim director of the Human Services Department, agrees with Grove's statements. "Our department will continue to take steps to monitor and improve health in Walworth County," Thompson promised. He cited recent changes in human health hazard ordinances and the development of a water quality testing program as examples of the department's ongoing efforts in this area.

The report breaks down overall population health into two components. The first of these, health outcomes, includes measures of mortality, potential life lost and self-reported general health status.

Walworth County ranked 18 in overall health outcomes.

The second component, health determinants, measures various health indicators that fall into one of four categories: health care, health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and physical environment. The selection of determinant measures was largely guided by the Wisconsin state health plan priorities.

Health care includes health insurance status, access to medical and dental care, and the reported use of medical care and preventive medicine.

Health behaviors include activities that are known to affect the risk of disease including cigarette smoking, diet, physical activity and binge drinking. Also included under health behaviors are several measurements indicative of high-risk health behaviors, including motor vehicle accident deaths, violent crime, sexually transmitted disease rates and teen births.

Socioeconomic factors include measurements of education, poverty, unemployment and family life, such as divorce and single parent households.

The physical environment factor considers the levels of air and water pollution in Walworth County as well as housing with increased lead-based paint risk. Also included were measurements related to the physical environment, including cancer risk and numbers of lead poisoned children.

When compared to other counties in the state, Walworth County's strengths in health determinants include high school completion and lower binge drinking rates. It is important to note that binge drinking is less of a problem when compared to other counties in the state and the state of Wisconsin as a whole. Problem areas identified by health rankings included air quality and some measures of preventative care (mammography and diabetic care).

More information about the Wisconsin County Health Rankings can be obtained from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in Madison (608) 263-6294, or online at www.pophealth.wisc.edu/uwphi.



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