Washington County, MN is the 38th Healthiest Community in the Country, study says

Posted 7/14/21

Immediately after midnight on June 29, U.S. News released a report entitled, “Healthiest Communities Rankings 2021.” The study revealed that Washington County is the 38th healthiest community in …

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Washington County, MN is the 38th Healthiest Community in the Country, study says


Immediately after midnight on June 29, U.S. News released a report entitled, “Healthiest Communities Rankings 2021.” The study revealed that Washington County is the 38th healthiest community in the United States of America and the 2nd healthiest in Minnesota. There are 3,142 counties and independent cities nationwide. Of that denominator, 2,875 were assessed on 84 health and health-related concepts. Afterwards, 500 were ordered from healthiest to 500th healthiest. The counties and independent cities that were neither scored nor ranked lacked too much data and/or had a population of under 2,000 citizens.

During the data retrieving process that resulted in the Healthiest Communities Rankings 2021, every eligible community was rated on at least 77 metrics, 28 subcategories, and 10 categories. There were 84 metrics and 30 subcategories in total. Each category was made up of subcategories that were constructed by metrics. For example, the category, “Equity,” contained the following four subcategories: Educational Equity, Health Equity, Income Equity and Social Equity.

Categories and subcategories such as these were defined by U.S. News prior to the scoring of roughly 3,000 counties and independent cities. The “multifaceted digital media company” did not select the concepts alone. U.S. News utilized the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics’ knowledge. The NCVHS claims that they are “the statutory… public advisory body to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) for health data, statistics, privacy, and national health information policy and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.” Combined with the input of population health specialists, the NCVHS’s guidance aided U.S. News in deciding to assess counties and independent cities in population health, equity, education, economy, housing, food & nutrition, environment, public safety, community vitality, and infrastructure.

The metrics, subcategories, and categories were solidified. Eligible communities could be evaluated. U.S. News, the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES), and other contributors carried out a scoring procedure together. First, datasets were analyzed to determine authentic scores for the majority of metrics in each community. U.S. News and its partners gained their information from organizations similar to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Next, the average score that American counties and independent cities reached within a single metric was calculated. Subsequently, all 84 metrics received a mean value. Using that average as a point of comparison in each metric, communities’ authentic scores were translated to z-scores. A z-score represents the distance between a raw number and an average value. It is measured in standard deviation units. Once all of the metrics under a single subcategory had z-scores, a mean value was calculated. That solution became the subcategory score. Succeeding that, the subcategory scores within one category were added together and divided by the correct divisor. This expression equaled a base category score for one community.

The true score for each category was the weighted version of the base score. A separate procedure was facilitated by U.S. News to resolve the significance of each category’s effect on community health and well-being. More than 12 population health and well-being experts participated in a survey. The questionnaire laid out the 10 health-related categories. Each intellectual was asked to distribute a total of 100 points to the concepts. They granted more points to the factors of population health that they found to be extra significant. When the experts finished the survey, the average number of points that each category obtained became the final weight. For instance, infrastructure was deemed as the least important category with a weight of 7.5%. The most heavily weighted categories were population health (14.2%) and equity (12.23%).

Welfare scores for counties and independent cities in the USA were almost identified. Category weights were applied to the corresponding scores of every community. After that, all of the weighted category scores in one community were added together and divided by 10. This amount concluded how a county or independent city ranked in the USA. By then, each community’s score was still in z-score form. Therefore, once all of the participating regions were ordered from greatest to least, their final scores were proportionally set on a scale of 100 to 0. The top-scoring county, Los Alamos County in New Mexico, secured an overall score of 100. The lowest- scoring county has 0 as their overall score. It is unclear to The Journal which area earned that rate because U.S. News did not disclose those details.

Even so, The Journal does know that Washington County is not the nation’s unhealthiest community. The region is rather the 38th healthiest nationally and 2nd healthiest statewide. 82/100 is Washington County’s overall health and well-being grade. Washington County had a personal best score of 87.6/100 in the category of Economy. This category assessed a county or independent city on their “household income, poverty rate, households receiving public assistance income, people with medical debt, unemployment, labor force participation, weekly wages, job diversity, job proximity and business growth,” according to the staff of U.S. News.

The poorest category score that Washington County was issued was a 48.7/100 in Food & Nutrition. This category considers the diabetes/ obesity prevalence, percentage of at-home food spending on fruit and vegetables, and the availability of food. The community likely secured a 48.7/100 because of the way it was evaluated in the metric named, “Population Without Access to Large Grocery Store.” Based on U.S. News’ report, 50.7% of the Washington County population does not have access to a supermarket. On a national scale, 21.6% of Americans do not have access to a large grocery store. Because Washington County scored poorly in this metric, its Food & Nutrition rate suffered.

The Journal was eager to hear Washington County’s Department of Public Health and Environment reflect on the results of the Healthiest Communities Rankings 2021. However, they have not responded to The Journal’s invitation to comment yet.

If readers desire to further explore the Healthiest Communities Rankings 2021, they can navigate to usnews. com/news/healthiest-communities/ rankings .

Below is a list of the final category scores for Washington County. (Source: U.S. News)

• Population Health: 82.2/100

• Equity: 63.0/100

• Education: 75.7/100

• Economy: 87.6/100

• Housing: 61.4/100

• Food & Nutrition: 48.7/100

• Environment: 62.2/100

• Public Safety: 67.7/100

• Community Vitality: 68.7/100

• Infrastructure: 84.0/100