A new report ranking the healthiest places to live in Nebraska finds both the worst- and best-ranked counties are in the state’s northeastern corner.
Andrea Ducas, a program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says the philanthropic organization’s 8th annual County Health Rankings study looked at more than 30 factors.
“In addition to measuring things like poor health days and obesity rates, we also look at education rates, we look at employment, we look at children in poverty,” Ducas says. “We want to attain a complete picture of what’s making people healthy and contributing to health where people live, learn, work and play.”
Cedar County ranked number-one in the state for the health of its residents, while Thurston County, just a few counties to the southeast, ranked last. Still, that last-place ranking doesn’t mean Thurston County is a “bad” place to live. Ducas says it just helps to identify some areas where improvement is needed.
“We know things like unemployment, which is relatively high in Thurston but it’s improving, and things like high school graduation rates and college attainment are a little bit lower than other counties in the state,” Ducas says. “In counties like Cedar, they tend to do better in high school graduation rates, college rates, unemployment, and that’s why we tend to see the difference in the ranks.”
She says it’s coincidence the state’s top- and bottom-ranked counties are in such close proximity.
“Typically, the counties that rank toward the bottom aren’t necessarily there because the conditions for health are poor,” Ducas says, “they’re there because they tend to score lower in the factors that influence how long and how healthy a person might stand to live in the future.”
The reports shows the five healthiest counties in Nebraska are: Cedar, Pierce, Washington, Polk and Valley. The five counties in the poorest health are: Keith, Box Butte, Kimball, Scotts Bluff, Thurston.
The study covers all 50 states and some 3,000 counties nationwide.
Ducas says the rankings are designed to bring revealing data to communities across the country and the tools and resources to help them take action to improve health. See where your home county stacks up at: www.countyhealthrankings.org.