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Just How Useful Are Health Rankings? 

Ranking health of the counties and states is popular. Such rankings often make the news in local papers, radio, and television news broadcasts. County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute 2014) rankings are done on two components, Health Outcomes and Health Factors. Health Outcomes refer to rates of such things as premature deaths, poor health days, and low birthweight. Health Factors include smoking, obesity, and teen births, as well as other social and economic factors.

According to the 2014 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute 2014), the county where I live in Iowa (Johnson) has an overall Health Outcomes ranking of 13 out of 99 counties and a Health Factors ranking of 2. However, if I lived a little southeast in Muscatine County, approximately 32 miles by car, things would appear to be quite a bit different. Muscatine County has a Health Outcomes rank of 62 out of 99 and a Health Factors rank of 82.

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