HILLSBORO, N.D.-Residents in Traill County are the healthiest people in North Dakota, according to a University of Wisconsin study.
The report released Wednesday by the Population Health Institute in Madison, Wis., determined Traill County had the best health outcomes in the state. The report, which has been published annually for eight years, ranks counties in their respective states.
One of the factors used was the length of life by determining the rate of how many people died before age 75. Traill County ranked only behind Griggs County when it came to deciding who had the lowest rate of premature deaths.
Other factors include adult obesity, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, the rate of those who don't have health insurance and physical environment.
Grand Forks County ranked 17th in overall health. Sioux County ranked the worst in the state with a premature death rate that was more than four times higher than the state average.
On the Minnesota side, Red Lake and Marshall counties did well, ranking third and seventh in overall health. Polk County was one of the least healthy in the state, ranking 71st overall out of 87. The worst was Mahnomen County, and the best was Carver County.
But the information is relative since it ranks counties with others in their states and not against the rest of the country, said Mary Bennett, a community coach with the Roadmaps to Health Action Center at the University of Wisconsin. For example, Polk County's premature death rate is similar to Pembina County in North Dakota, which ranked 13th in overall health in North Dakota.
North Dakota counties that performed worse or better than their counterparts in the study were not contained to one area, Bennett said. In Minnesota, the counties that performed worse were mostly isolated to the northern part of the state, especially in the Arrow Region.
The point of the study is to follow trends and present information others can use to assess health in an effort to improve the lives of residents.
The UND Center for Rural Health uses the data as one of many tools to help North Dakota hospitals and communities chart strategies to improve health, said Brad Gibbens, the center's deputy director. He said health in rural areas, which are vast in North Dakota and northern Minnesota, tends to struggle. But he said rural communities in North Dakota have made concentrated efforts to improve health issues by holding forums, performing assessments and implementing events to change trends for the better.
"You see some really cool things where rural hospitals may be setting up some type of wellness programs," he said, adding community members, businesses and volunteers are getting involved as well. "You see a lot of rural communities really stepping up in terms of trying to understand their health as a community and what they can do to improve it.
"You see a lot of engagement. That is the first step."