July 28, 2014

Report says Sioux County is the healthiest in the state

A new report ranks the overall health of all 99 Iowa counties. The study used some 30 factors to compile the rankings, things like childhood poverty, smoking, college attendance, physical activity and access to physicians. Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says Sioux County, in far northwest Iowa, ranked as the state’s healthiest county. “They have a very low rate of premature death in that county,” Van Dijk says. “People are living longer lives, they’re living well into their 70s and 80s, for the most part.”

She says Sioux County also ranked high in categories that surveyed social and economic factors, clinical care and the physical environment. “The other thing that influences good health in Sioux County is people are living good lives,” Van Dijk says. “There’s a smaller percentage of people who report they’re in poor or fair health, you’re having healthy babies in that community, a fairly low rate of low birth weight babies, so that’s really encouraging.”

The study found Appanoose County, in southeast Iowa on the Missouri border, was the least healthy Iowa county. “They have more people dying earlier, they have more people reporting they’re in poor health, they have more babies who are being born earlier and of a lower birth weight,” Van Dijk says. “Appanoose County also ranks 98th out of 99 counties in those health factors and so has real opportunities to improve in things like smoking and healthy eating and active living.”

While Sioux County ranks as Iowa’s healthiest county, the rest of the top five are: Winneshiek, Chickasaw, Lyon and Mitchell at number-five. On the other end, the bottom five are: Montgomery, Wayne, Mills, Adams and Appanoose at 99th. “The county health rankings are not meant to shame a county that’s ranking at the lower end of the scale but to serve as a call to action,” Van Dijk says, “to say, what can we do to move these health factors forward and improve on these areas so residents of our community can live longer, healthier lives?”

The rankings come from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health-focused philanthropy. This is the fifth year of the rankings, published online at: www.countyhealthrankings.org