Polk County’s health outcomes ranked 34th out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in a recent report.
Ozaukee County ranked healthiest and Sawyer the least healthy county, according to the annual County Health Rankings released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI). All rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.
County Health Rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot that compares counties within states, the Rankings show that where you live influences how well and how long you live. Housing is part of the foundation for living long and well. High housing costs can force some families to live in unsafe or overcrowded housing or even into homelessness. This year’s Rankings State Reports show stark differences across and within counties in the opportunity to afford a home, especially for those with low incomes and people of color. This year’s analyses show that a lack of opportunity for a safe, secure, and affordable home is tied to poor health.
The Rankings State Reports call attention to key drivers in health such as severe housing cost burden and its connection to other factors like children in poverty. Among Wisconsin’s children living in poverty, 49% were living in a household that spends more than half of its income on housing. High housing costs make it difficult for families to afford other essentials that contribute to good health, such as healthy food, medicine, or transportation to work or school. Looking at differences by place and race offers a more complete picture of a community’s health.
“This focus on the key drivers on health also called the social determinates of health is something the Polk United coalition is working to address in each of the workgroups: Substance Use, Mental Health and Nutrition and Physical Activity. This focus on the key drivers will hopefully create a healthier Polk county for all,” said Elizabeth Hagen, health educator.
“Our homes are inextricably tied to our health,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing. This leaves them with fewer dollars to keep their families healthy. Imagine the stress and pain that come with unplanned moves. We are all healthier and stronger together when everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money they make.”
“All communities have the potential to be places where everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But the data show that’s not happening in most communities yet. Children of color face a greater likelihood of growing up in poverty, and low-income families struggle to pay rent and get enough to eat,” said Sheri Johnson, PhD, acting director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “It is time to do the difficult work of coming together to undo policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity. The Rankings can help communities ground these important conversations in data, evidence, guidance, and stories about challenges and success.”
How does Polk county compare?
Premature death 6,7006,300
Poor or fair health 14%15%
Adult smoking 15%17%
Adult obesity 33%31%
Physical inactivity 18%20%
Access to exercise 69%86%
Alc. driving deaths 44%36%
Graduation rate 94%89%
Children in poverty 12% 15%
Violent crime 273298
Injury deaths 8477
Long commute 42% 27%