WI in top half for health rankings, but resources low for public outreach
Wisconsin ranks 22nd in the country when it comes to a range of health measuring sticks, and local public health officials said more resources could help them address certain gaps.
The rankings are from an annual report by the United Health Foundation, which had ranked Wisconsin 21st last year. Some of the state's strengths include a low prevalence of nonmedical drug use and encouraging results for physical activity. But it is 49th in the nation for public health funding.
Dave Rynders, director of health and human services for Buffalo County, noted most of his budget is tied to local property taxes. He suggested more outside resources could help expand efforts in areas such as tobacco use prevention.
"We're dealing with vaping, we're dealing with other ways of consuming nicotine that are being made available and marketed to children," Rynders explained. "But what we don't have is really a strong enough voice and presence to really work with the community intensively."
Watchdogs pointed out Wisconsin's near-bottom ranking for public health spending is partially influenced by what it receives from the Centers for Disease Control. But other rankings focusing on state spending have ranked Wisconsin fairly low in funding set aside for local offices, which mirrors a national trend highlighted over the course of the pandemic.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of employer and individual for UnitedHealthcare, said on a national scale, they are seeing concerning trends for chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
"This is something that we have been concerned about for quite some time, prior to the pandemic," Randall emphasized. "When we looked at the data in this year's report, it's really unfortunate to see that the number of adults living with chronic conditions in the United States is the highest we've seen it."
Wisconsin ranks 28th in the nation for the percentage of adults with multiple chronic conditions. Randall stressed the trend comes amid a decline in licensed primary caregivers around the country. She argued it should prompt a call to action for individuals to analyze the choices they make affecting their health and for communities to pull as many supportive resources together as possible.