MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson
By Melody Ng
You’ve probably already heard that La qui Parle is Minnesota’s healthiest county. The new County Health Rankings report, which compares health, county-by-county, across the nation, gives residents and public health advocates in La qui Parle, McLeod, Steele, Brown, and Carver (Minnesota’s top five) reason to celebrate. And, it’s likely left their counterparts in Cass County, our least healthy place to live, biting their nails.
Healthy doesn’t seem to require great health care though. According to the report’s measures of health care access and quality, La qui Parle County placed 80th out of 85 counties; Cass County did slightly better at 76th.
La qui Parle’s low clinical care score may reflect its high number of hospitalizations that could have been avoided by better outpatient care — the fourth worst in the state. Also, 16 percent of the county’s adults lack health insurance. Only eight other Minnesota counties are less insured. Keep in mind, though, that the national average is 20 percent.
Another data point that stood out was the extreme shortage of primary care doctors in Marshall County, near the northwest corner of the state.
Marshall is Minnesota’s ninth healthiest county, so not having a lot of doctors doesn’t seem to be a huge problem. But at 9,312 residents per primary care doctor, Marshall County has more than five times the national ratio of 1,718 residents per doctor — and one of the worst in the country. The only worse ratios I ran across were for two counties in Texas, two in Mississippi, and one in Alaska. Of course, there are also counties in the United States with no primary care docs.
The data from this report are intriguing, but MPR News is even more interested in the stories behind the numbers. So if you can tell us about how your community deals with physician shortages, or explain why one in three Beltrami County adults smokes, — or if you want to tell us about what health care is like where you live, we’re listening. Share your story here.