“Live Long and Prosper”

Written by Joan M. Theurer

Live long and prosper, a blessing imparted by Mr. Spock on Star Trek.


To “live long and prosper” has been desired since the beginning of time… It’s something we hope for ourselves, our family, and our friends. The phrase, while inspiring, can seem elusive or unattainable.

But, what if I told you it’s not as elusive as you think?

Every year in March, counties across the United States are measured in terms of their overall health by the County Health Rankings program. This program ranks counties in each state based on length of life (people living beyond age 75) and quality of life (how healthy people feel about their physical and emotional health).

In 2018, Marathon County ranked 22 in overall health out of 72 counties in Wisconsin. 


The County Health Rankings are more than a standard measure for how long people live and how healthy they are while they are alive. The rankings inform us as a community where we can focus our efforts to improve our health and “provide a revealing snapshot of how health is influenced by where we live, learn, work, and play.”

Many people are surprised when they learn that health is more than mere access to health care. Social and economic factors — like education, income, family and social support, and how safe people feel — account for 40% of health.

The following is a simple formula to “Live Long and Prosper”:

“Live Long and Prosper” =

Health Behaviors (30%) +

Clinical Health Care (20%) +

Social & Economic Factors (40%) +

Physical Environment (10%)


The health rankings also tell us “place matters.”

In fact, Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, made the claim:

“Tell me your zip code, and I will tell you your life expectancy.” 

It’s hard to be healthy if you don’t live in a healthy community. Life expectancy is shorter for people who:

  • Have unreliable transportation, poor housing, and unclean air and water
  • Live in communities where it’s difficult to have a living-wage job
  • Lack job-training opportunities
  • Are socially isolated

So, then, what are the:

Circumstances we can change?

Areas worth investing in as a community?

Circumstances that if changed — over time — will contribute to improving people’s ability to “live long and prosper”?

Marathon County is fortunate to be rich in resources — resources we need to continue to leverage and invest in our communities to make “the difference” to be the healthiest county in Wisconsin.

What is “the difference” we need to make? 

How do we invest our community assets? 

Everyone has a part — no matter what role he or she has in the community — to:

  • Ensure all residents have access to healthy food and safe places to walk and play
  • Provide affordable and livable housing
  • Role-model how alcohol can be used safely
  • Encourage children and adults to seek out services to support their emotional well-being
  • Provide job-training opportunities and living-wage jobs
  • Develop self-regulating behaviors in our children, youth, and adults to reduce the experimentation and the misuse of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol
  • Lend a helping hand when a child, parent, and/or older adult is struggling
  • Be welcoming of all people

YOU can contribute to “the difference” we are making in our local community’s health.

In your day-to-day life, what is one choice you will make to help yourself, your family, and your community to “live long and prosper”?

JoanTheurerJoan M. 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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