Survey: County among top 50 healthiest in U.S. for kids

WashCo_logoWashington County programs targeting early childhood health and nutrition helped make the county the 33rd healthiest county for children in the U.S., according to a recent U.S. News survey.

The ranking is the result of a survey of all counties in the U.S., created with help from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The survey examined health benchmarks including low birth weight, infant death rate, teen birth rate, children in poverty and injury death rate for children ages 1 through 19.

Washington County has a 6.1 percent rate for low birth weight children and a 505.6 per 100,000 infant death rate. The teen birth rate per 1,000 is 14.4 and there are 7.1 percent of children in poverty. The injury death rate per 100,000 for ages 1 through 19 is 11.2. An overall score from 0 to 100 is assigned to each county when all factors are considered. Washington County scored an 84.0.

The study is described as the first national, county-level assessment of how health and environmental factors affect the well-being of children younger than 18. Those reporting the study note that rating healthy children requires an assessment of several factors in a child’s life.

The county has several programs contributing to its high ranking of children’s health, according to Jill Timm, senior nursing program manager at the Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides nutrition education, breast feeding support and vouchers for healthy foods for pregnant women and children up to 5 years of age, Timm said.

“That’s one of the programs that reaches families with socio-economic needs,” she said.

The Family Health Nursing Team supports families around healthy pregnancies, positive parenting, health and nutrition, infant and child growth and development and child safety and injury prevention, according to Timm.

The Follow Along Program is offered to all parents of newborns and provides age-appropriate developmental screening and education to families. The Child & Teen Check-up Program offers resources and guidance to ensure parents receive routine well-child care for children and adolescents.

Timm emphasizes that “the department partners with county agencies, other local public health departments, and community providers to promote collaboration towards the goal of healthy children and contribute to the recent county ranking. Healthy children utilize preventative health care and resources resulting in less overall health care costs for society.”

Another aspect of the county’s childhood health care effort is home visits by county workers, Timm said.

“Home visits encourage healthy parent-child attachment and connect families with community resources,” she said.

Timm said the county’s childhood health care outreach focuses on prevention and outreach to ensure families connect with providers for proper health and dental care.
“It’s preventative in nature. If possible, we’re trying to prevent future issues and problems these families face,” she said.

Questions about any of these programs or Washington County’s ranking can be directed to the Department of Public Health and Environment at 651-430-6655.

Contact Amanda White at [email protected]