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County ranks in top 50 healthiest for children nationwide

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A recent survey ranked Washington County in the top 50 healthiest counties for children in the country.

The rankings, released by U.S. News and developed with the help of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, evaluates health data for the U.S. population as part of its County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, which is a collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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"We're very pleased," said Lowell Johnson, Washington County director of public health and environment. "That puts us in the top 1 percent of all counties. Obviously we're really pleased with that and we're excited that they ranked us that high."

At No. 33 on the list, Washington County has a 6.1 percent rate low birth weight in children, according to the survey.

The county's infant death rate per 100,000 is 505.6, and its teen birth rate is 14.4 per 1,000, according to the rankings.

The survey also states that county children living within the poverty rate is 7.1 percent, and the injury-death rate per 100,000 for ages 1 through 19 is 11.2 percent.

Johnson said the study was done independently and the county was not involved in submitting any of the data that includes a variety of health indicators.

The rankings look at federal and state reports that come from various sources. They measure everything from income levels, school conditions, crime and poverty rates, as well as nutrition and physical activity.

Since social settings influence children's health in a number of ways, Johnson said the results are based on work that involves everyone in the county, including parents, schools, hospitals, medical providers and social and human services programs.

"We're all working together," he said. "It's certainly not the health department's mission alone. There is a lot of people involved in this."

Maternal and child health program manager Jill Timm said the county puts on several programs that serve families and children that could've also affected the survey results.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program serves income eligible families and provides nutrition education and food vouchers.

One other program that has been expanded this year is the family home visit service, which serves young families, pregnant moms and provides education, community support and resources.

New federal grants the county was awarded this year will help serve double the number of families in the home visit program that focuses on stressed families that meet other criteria.

The county's family health nursing team also supports families around healthy pregnancies, positive parenting, health and nutrition, infant and child growth and development and child safety and injury prevention, Timm said.

The study is being described as the first national, county-level assessment of how health and environment factors affect the well being of children younger than 18.

"We like to think that it does reflect much of the hard work and the effort," Johnson said. "It doesn't mean there isn't more work to do. We have to continue to be vigilant. You've got to work hard to stay where you're at."

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir has been a reporter/ photographer with the Woodbury Bulletin since 2011. She covers Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news around the city. Riham holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked for two other Forum Communications newspapers in Central Minnesota. Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
(651) 702-0974
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