County’s health ranking falls nine spots


Dubois County has fallen nine spots since 2017 — 18 since 2015 — and is now ranked the 23rd healthiest of Indiana’s 92 counties, according to a report released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

“I’m a little disappointed with our ranking, although the bottom line is that that still tells me we have a lot of work to do to improve the health of our citizens in our county,” said Donna Oeding, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department.

The 2018 County Health Rankings are a collection of 50 reports that reflect the overall health of counties in every state across the country. Annually, counties receive a snapshot of how healthy their residents are by comparing their overall health and the factors that influence their health with other counties in their state.

The health outcomes ranking in the report, which puts Dubois County at 23rd, is based on measures of mortality and morbidity. The mortality rank (Dubois County is ranked 31st) is based on a measure of premature death: the years of potential life lost prior to age 75. The morbidity rank (Dubois County is ranked 16th) is based on measures that represent health-related quality of life and birth outcomes — poor or fair health, poor physical health days, poor mental health days and low birth weight.

Another part of the report ranks Dubois County fourth in terms of health factors, which are based on health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic and physical environment factors.

Oeding said the biggest change she can see in this year’s report compared to last year’s is how the county scored in terms of physical environment factors. Last year, the county ranked sixth; this year it ranks 54th.

She said the only difference she can see is that in the 2017 report, the county had no drinking water violations; this year, the report indicates the county did have drinking water violations.

Oeding emphasized that while the county’s overall ranking fell, various health issues are improving across the county — like low birth weight numbers, access to exercise, teen birth numbers, the number of uninsured people in the county, the unemployment rate and the number of children in poverty.

“I don’t want to make this all a negative; that’s why I don’t want to focus on this, ‘We fell from 14th to 23rd,’” Oeding said. “Yes that was kind of, ‘Oh my goodness, what in the world happened,’ but I don’t see anything alarming in the data that says, ‘Man, we need to take a look at this now and start addressing this issue right now.’ The numbers were just a minor shift one way or the other.”

She noted several collaborations across the county that are seeking to improve public health — The Dubois County Public Health Partnership, the Latino Collaboration Table and Dubois County CARES.

The Dubois county Public Health Partnership was formed nearly 10 years ago to assure the health care and public health services that best serve the needs of the county are provided. It recently looked at what it considers to be the top five public health issues in the county, which Oeding said overlap with some of the issues in the recent report — mental health; substance use; the aging population; the vulnerable population, such as kids in poverty, single parents and the aging; and food security.

Oeding added that the Latino Collaboration Table is another collaboration that has been meeting since 2015 to address the needs of local employers, health care providers, educators and the Latino community. A third collaboration is Dubois County CARES, a coalition that empowers youth to be alcohol and drug free.

“As a community and really as a public health agency, we’re starting to understand that big scope of how much our lifestyles impact our health,” Oeding said. “I think that’s what we’ll continue to see and work on.”

To see the full 2018 County Health Rankings report, visit


Some health factors outlined in the report and how Dubois County compares to the state of Indiana:

Adult smoking: County 17% State 21%

Adult obesity: County 30% State 32%

Alcohol-impaired driving deaths: County 27% State 22%

High school graduation rate: County 95% State 87%

Unemployment: County 3.1% State 4.4%

Children in poverty: County 8% State 19%

Children in single-parent households: County 20% State 34%

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