Carver ranked Minn.'s healthiest countyby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Geographic differences in the health of Minnesota residents haven't changed much in the past year, according to a ranking of Minnesota counties.
Carver County is ranked as Minnesota's healthiest county, while Cass County is at the bottom of the list, according to study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
After Carver, Minnesota's top five healthiest counties are Steele, Waseca, Dodge and Scott. Hennepin County is ranked No. 55 among Minnesota's 87 counties while Ramsey County is 65th.
Also, the healthiest Minnesota counties tend to be located in the southern half of the state. Meanwhile, more than a dozen northern Minnesota counties are concentrated in the bottom quarter of the group's health rankings.
Minnesota's bottom five healthiest counties, in descending order, are Lake, Traverse, Mille Lacs, Mahnomen and Cass.
The 2013 County Health Rankings were released Wednesday by the university and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Many of the health disparities identified in the rankings can be traced to heath factors that range from behavior to access to care to economic conditions, said Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger.
"The lower the income level, the poorer your health status. Also where unemployment is higher we'll have lower income levels," Ehlinger said. "Where tobacco use is higher, which is also related to income and educational level, health status is worse."
Generally, the health of Minnesotans is very good compared to much of the rest of the country, he said.
Counties were ranked on such factors as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and teen birth rates. Counties were also ranked on their health outcomes which include the rate of people dying before age 75, the rate of low birth-weight infants and the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health. Associated Press contributed to this report.