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Report to be released on county-by-county health rankings for all 50 states

WILLMAR -- Lac qui Parle County, in western Minnesota, has the state's healthiest residents, according to a new report containing county-by-county rankings for all 50 states.

The full report is being released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This is the second year a national snapshot has been put together that measures the health of Americans according to where they live, work and go to school.

According to a preliminary glimpse at the 2011 rankings, the 10 healthiest counties in Minnesota are Lac qui Parle, McLeod, Steele, Brown, Carver, Scott, Clearwater, Fillmore, Marshall and Jackson. The 10 least healthy counties are Cass, Wadena, Norman, Beltrami, Lake, Morrison, Mahnomen, Yellow Medicine, Cottonwood and Todd.

Researchers looked at five key factors for each county: the rate of residents who died before age 75, the percentage of residents who self-reported their health as fair or poor, how many days residents reported being in poor physical health and poor mental health, and the rate of low-birthweight infants.

The rankings also look at behavioral and environmental factors such as obesity among adults, the number of adults who are uninsured, teen pregnancy rates, the number of children living in poverty, high school graduation rates and availability of primary care providers.

The report is aimed at helping counties identify what they're doing well and what they need to improve.

"The rankings not only shine a light on the health of individual counties, they also demonstrate the need to include prevention in our health care reform efforts," said Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health.

Health officials said they hope the data will spur local government, businesses, schools and public health providers to do more with programs and policies that encourage good health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is launching a new program, called Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health, that will provide grants to up to 14 communities nationwide to help strengthen community efforts to improve health.

In the 2010 rankings, Jackson County residents had the best health overall. Lake County was the poorest. Chippewa, Swift and Kandiyohi counties were among the top 15 in overall health, while Yellow Medicine County was among the bottom 10.