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Beltrami County ranks near bottom in people's health

Despite being a regional medical center and possessing a strong wellness community effort, Beltrami County ranks near dead-last in the health of its people.

Beltrami County ranks 84th of 85 Minnesota counties in health outcomes in a report released Wednesday in a study of the health of 50 states by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Two Minnesota counties weren't included.

Minnesota counties received health rankings in health outcomes and health factors. Beltrami County ranked 84th in health outcomes and 85th in health factors.

The report states that health outcomes are based on both mortality and morbidity -- measures of premature death and of health-related quality of life and birth outcomes. Beltrami ranked 84th in mortality and 45th in mortality.

The report said that 14 percent of the people who live in Beltrami County are in poor or fair health, while the state average is 11 percent -- both above a target value of 9 percent.

Four areas are used to determine health factor rankings, the report said. Health behaviors include measures of smoking, diet and exercise, alcohol use and risky sex behaviors. Clinical care includes measures of access to care and quality of care. Social and economic factors include measures of education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety. Physical environment includes measures of environmental quality and the built environment.

Beltrami County ranked 85th in health behaviors, 56th in clinical care, 83rd in social and economic factors, and 37th in physical environment.

Beltrami County, with one of the first countywide comprehensive smoking bans before the statewide ban in public workplaces took effect, has 36 percent of its adult population smoking. The state average is 15 percent.

Twenty-eight percent of Beltrami County adults suffer from obesity, while the state average is 26 percent.

Some other indicators show Beltrami County with 73 percent high school graduates with a state average of 86 percent, 24 percent children in poverty with a state average of 12 percent, and 10 percent single-parent households, with a statewide number of 8 percent.

"The health of a community depends on many different factors, including quality of health care, individual behavior, education and jobs, and the environment," states the report. "We can improve a community's health through programs and policies.

"For example, people who live in communities with ample park and recreation space are more likely to exercise, which reduces heart disease risk," the report stated. "People who live in communities with smoke-free laws are less likely to smoke or to be exposed to second-hand smoke, which reduces lung cancer risk."

Beltrami County is close to the state average in the number of primary providers, at 153 per 100,000 people, while the state average is 157.

"These rankings demonstrate that health happens where we live, learn, work and play. And much of what influences how healthy we are and how long we live happens outside the doctor's office," said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We hope the County Health Rankings spur all sectors - government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health - to work together on solutions that address barriers to good health and help all Americans lead healthier lives."