Weather Forecast


County’s health rating bumps up

Douglas County is among the top 25 healthiest counties in the state.

Minnesota counties listed in the County Health Rankings Report, prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, received two ranks:

0 Talk about it

● Health outcomes – how healthy a county is.

● Health factors – what influences the health of a county.

The County Health Rankings measures the health of counties in the nation and helps local officials understand health influences and how long they will live.

A variety of measures affecting health are used, including high school graduation rates, access to healthy foods, rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

The ranking results are used to garner support for local health improvement initiatives among government agencies, health care providers, community organizations, business leaders, policy makers and the public.



Douglas County is ranked 23rd of the 87 counties in Minnesota in health outcomes for 2014.

Health outcomes use data from length of life and quality of life (i.e. poor or fair health, poor physical and mental health days and low birth weight).

The 2014 ranking is up from 27th place in 2013.

In 2012, Douglas County was ranked fourth overall in health outcomes.

For 2014, neighboring Todd County ranked 53rd, Pope County ranked 60th and Otter Tail County ranked 37th in health outcomes.



Douglas County ranked 12th in Minnesota when measured by health factors for 2014.

Health factors are determined using data collected on health behaviors (tobacco, alcohol and drug use, diet and exercise and sexual activity), clinical care (access to and quality of care), social and economic factors (education, employment, income, community safety) and physical environment (air and water quality and housing and transit).

In 2013, Douglas County ranked 12th and ranked 15th in 2012.

For 2014, neighboring Todd County ranked 77th, Pope County ranked 21st and Otter Tail County ranked 36th in health factors.


Under the health factors measurement, Douglas County fared well and not-so-well in a few specific categories; here’s a summary:

● Adult smoking: According to the report, 21 percent of surveyed adults in Douglas County (279 people) reported smoking more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke; the state average is 16 percent and the top U.S. counties averaged 14 percent adult smokers.

● Adult obesity: 27 percent of surveyed adults in Douglas County were considered obese (a body mass index greater than 30); the state average is 26 percent and the top U.S. counties averaged 25 percent obese population.

● Physical inactivity: 22 percent of surveyed adults older than age 20 reported no leisure time physical activity; the state average is 20 percent and top U.S. counties averaged 21 percent.

● Alcohol-impaired driving deaths: 19 percent of driving deaths involved alcohol in Douglas County; the state average is 32 percent and top U.S. counties’ average was 14 percent.

● Preventable hospital stays: The hospitalization rate for ambulatory-care sensitive conditions per 1,000 Medicare enrollees was 36 in Douglas County. The state average was 49 and top U.S. counties averaged 46 people.

● Children in poverty: 13 percent of children younger than age 18 are in poverty. The state average is 15 percent and the top U.S. counties reported an average of 13 percent of children living in poverty.

● Air pollution – particulate matter: The average daily measure of fine particulate matter is 12.9 micrograms per cubic meter. The state average is 12 and the top U.S. counties averaged 9.5 micrograms.

● Driving alone to work: 82 percent of the Douglas County workforce reportedly drives alone to work. The state average is 78 percent and top U.S. counties reported an average of 71 percent of solo commuters on the road to work.


According to Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, research that has looked at what factors create health shows that 40 percent are related to social and economic factors, 30 percent are tied to health behaviors, 10 percent by physical environment, 10 percent by genes and biology, and 10 percent by clinical care.

“By reporting on the overall health of people in each county, we can begin to understand how individual health is affected by where people live,” said Ehlinger. “The rankings remind us that we live in communities, and that if our community is healthy, we’re more likely to be healthy ourselves.”

The rankings report, launched in 2010, is designed to compare the health of counties.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133