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Social and economic factors influence Northwoods county health rankings

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

There are two separate ranking systems for counties.

Health outcomes looks at length of life and quality of life.

In the Northwoods, Oneida County ranks the highest at 25 out of 72 counties. Forest County ranks the lowest at 71.

The other ranking looks at health factors.

These are things like adult smoking, obesity, and excessive drinking as well as social and economic factors like education and poverty.

Again, Oneida County ranks towards the top at 19, while Forest County sits towards the bottom at 69.

Ericka Burroughs-Girardi is a Senior Outreach Specialist for County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

She says it’s not unusual for a higher-ranking county to be adjacent to a low ranking one, even when geographically and demographically they’re very similar.

Burroughs-Girardi says people in the lower ranking county will often end up leaving if they’re able to afford to move elsewhere.

“What ends up happening is that county that continues to struggle, suffers from disinvestment,” said Burroughs-Girardi. “We know that when an economy in any given county starts to suffer, often the health outcomes go in the same direction.”

What can be done to change that?

Burroughs-Girardi says economic security key to increasing the health of county.

“Without a good job for instance, we might not have access to good insurance to take care of our health. Without education we may not understand what our doctor is telling us when he’s explained health prevention measures. It’s important we have all those factors to help make good health decisions,” she said.

Take childcare costs for example.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says childcare is no longer affordable if it exceeds 7% of a household’s income.

In majority of Northwoods counties it’s 25-28% of a family’s income. In Forest County it’s 29-33% of household’s income.

“If they are spending that much, more than three times than what’s recommended on childcare, that leaves less money for them to attend to other basic needs such as shelter, transportation, food, all those other basic needs that we need to survive,” said Burroughs-Girardi.

You can view your county’s health ranking here. That’s also where you’ll find tools and resources to help improve health factors where you live.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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