Madison County residents rank 30th out of 88 counties in the state when it comes to overall health outcomes according to the latest County Health Rankings. Annually since 2010, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have produced the County Health Rankings, which serve as a “population health checkup” for the nation’s more than 3,000 counties. The Rankings are a conceptual model of population health that include both health outcomes (mortality and morbidity) and health factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment).
According to Madison County Public Health Commissioner Chris Cook, the results of the report confirm what health officials in Madison County already know. Madison County’s latest ranking is in the upper one third of counties in the state. Another positive indicator is the rank of 25th in “quality of life” measures. “We’ve known for some time that our county has clear strengths when it comes to health and prevention. Our health care system is headed in the right direction thanks to our incredible social service agencies and hospital,” Cook said.
Cook is also concerned about some of the other data that the report contains. He points out that there is room for improvement when it comes to health factors as Madison ranks 43rd in the state in this category. The report indicates that Madison County is behind in several areas including access to exercise opportunities, physical activity of residents, access to healthy foods, excessive drinking, motor vehicle crash deaths, and alcohol-impaired driving deaths.
“We plan to use the County Health Rankings in addition to the Community Health Needs Assessment to identify the areas where we can make a real difference. This data guides us in planning programs with our community partners and supports our efforts with grant opportunities,” Cook explained.
While the Rankings are not a perfect model for evaluating the health of a county, Cook looks at the report as a way to build awareness of the multiple factors that influence health.
“Rather than provide the final answers to all of our health questions, the Rankings serve as a call to action for not only social service agencies, but also individual Madison County residents. This should rally us as a community to get better,” he said. “Genetics play a huge role in our health, but so do the choices we make. What we eat and drink, what we do in our free time, it all adds up to affect not only how long we live, but how well we live.”