The 2017 Marathon County Health Rankings Are In…

Written by Joan M. Theurer

Much like a doctor uses specific tools to check the health of a patient, the Marathon County Health Department uses specific tools to check the health of the county. The Health Department doesn’t use a thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, or a scale, though. Instead we use data.

With the release of the County Health Rankings in March, we receive an annual report on the health of Marathon County. The rankings show the overall health of counties in all 50 states based on how long people live and how healthy people are while they’re alive.

So, how’d we do?

For 2017, Marathon County ranked 14 out of 72 counties in Wisconsin for overall Health Outcomes.

What Exactly Makes a County “Healthy”?

Building on the work of America’s Health Rankings, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute has used the model below to rank the health of Wisconsin’s counties every year since 2003.


You may be surprised that while health care is important (it’s responsible for 20% of Marathon County’s health ranking), it’s not the predominate factor in having a healthy community. The County Health Rankings inform us that social and economic factors play a greater role:

  • Social and economic factors account for 40% of our community’s health ranking. Education attainment, child poverty, income inequality, social connections, and violent crime are some of those social and economic influences.
  • Health behaviors (e.g., adult smoking, adult obesity, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities and healthy foods, excessive drinking, and driving under the influence of alcohol) also play a significant role, accounting for 30% of our health ranking.
  • The remaining factor that contributes to the health of our community is our physical environment — Air and water quality, adequate housing, and transit, to name but a few influences, account for 10% of Marathon County’s health ranking.
Where You Live Matters!

The County Health Rankings reinforce that where you live, learn, work, and play matters to your health. It’s difficult for you, your family, or your friends to live long and healthy lives if you don’t live in a healthy community. And the health of your community is intrinsically linked to the economics and safety of your community. It’s hard to be healthy if you don’t have:

  • A safe place to walk
  • Access to (and the means to afford) healthy foods
  • Access to mental health, dental, and health services
  • Clean air or drinking water
  • Housing that is not dilapidated and is free of mold and cockroaches
  • Good mental well-being
  • Adequate social supports
  • A culture where alcohol is used responsibly and other drugs are not misused
The Rankings Inform Us Where to Invest Our Community Resources.

Like a doctor who prescribes medications and treatments to cure the ailments of their patients, the Health Department, along with our community partners, have prescriptions to prevent or reduce the impacts of what ails our community. We use the County Health Rankings to help us select community health priorities for Marathon County. For 2017–2020, these priorities include:

  • Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse and Abuse: Creating a culture in communities where alcohol is used responsibly and other drugs (e.g., prescription, illicit, tobacco) are not misused
  • Behavioral Health: Promoting well-being by preventing or intervening in mental illness (e.g., depression or anxiety), along with preventing or intervening in substance abuse or other addictions
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: Preventing or reducing the impact of potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being
  • Healthy Weight: Promoting a weight that lowers your risk for health problems
  • Health Needs of Aging: Developing and maintaining optimal mental, social, and physical well-being and function in older adulthood
  • Oral Health: Promoting health for teeth and your entire mouth

Social and economic factors are recognized as influencing the entire spectrum of our community health priorities. The resulting plan — called 2017–2020 Marathon County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) — aligns our community efforts to address these health priorities, which are causing the greatest burden on the health of our residents and community.

Health Is Everyone’s Business.

To be among the healthiest counties in Wisconsin, health needs to be everyone’s business. We are fortunate to live, learn, work, and play in a county where community members and partners understand the value of creating a county that is the healthiest, safest, and most prosperous. So, consider for a moment:

How can and do YOU contribute to Marathon County being ranked 14th out of 72 counties in Wisconsin?

You can read more about the County Health Rankings here. Or, learn more about what’s being done in Marathon County to address community health priorities here.

JoanTheurerJoan Theurer

Health Officer  |  Marathon County Health Department

Joan Theurer is a Health Officer with the Marathon County Health Department. Over the course of her career, Joan has been fortunate to work in a variety of community settings, from small rural communities in Clark County to urban communities in the Milwaukee area. She has an undergraduate degree in Child Development and Family Life, as well as Nursing, and a master’s degree in Community Health Nursing. Joan is a graduate of the National Public Health Leadership Institute, Chapel Hill, NC. She and her husband moved to the area over 20 years ago to be close to Nine Mile County Forest for skiing and the numerous great outdoor recreational opportunities the area affords.  Email Joan Theurer

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