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A low health ranking for Becker County

A new report ranking the health of every county in the United States shows wide variations in health status among Minnesota’s 87 counties.

In this area, Becker, Hubbard and Mahnomen counties are in the lowest quartile. Otter Tail County is in the second-best quartile. Clay County is in the top 25 percent of Minnesota counties.

Becker County is ranked 67 out of 87 Minnesota counties. Mahnomen County is ranked 87, or dead last.

Hubbard County is ranked 73. Otter Tail County comes in at 36. Clay County is ranked 20.

This is the fifth year of County Health Rankings, prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The project ranks counties by overall health using a standard formula to measure the health status of the counties’ residents and how long they live.

The County Health Rankings are available at

Counties are ranked in two categories: health outcomes and health factors (also known as health determinants). Health outcomes include the rate of collective number of years of life lost from people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health and the rate of low birth-weight infants.

Health factors include health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. The rankings, launched in 2010, are designed to compare the health of counties.

According to Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, research that has looked at what factors create health shows that 40 percent is related to social and economic factors, 30 percent is 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 Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “The rankings remind us that we live in communities, and that if our community is healthy, we’re more likely to be healthy ourselves.”

Local health departments in Minnesota already conduct extensive measurements of the health of their communities. The County Health Rankings are an additional tool that highlights the essential role of prevention across Minnesota.

“These rankings can help advance the conversation between communities and local health departments, which are constantly adjusting strategies to meet local needs,” Ehlinger said. “Local public health leadership is one reason why Minnesota consistently ranks among the healthiest states in the nation.”

That may be true statewide, but the results show that the White Earth Reservation, in particular, needs all the help it can get on the healthcare front.

And this region in general has a long way to go before it can be satisfied with its health ranking.