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Harrison cracks top 25 healthiest counties

Harrison County finished in the top 25 of 92 Indiana counties in health outcomes rankings, according to a recent study, measuring how healthy people are and how long they live.
The fourth annual study, which ranks each county in all 50 states, was conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.
‘Statewide, we know that we have major improvements to make in infant mortality, childhood immunizations, obesity and smoking,’ Dr. William VanNess, state health commissioner, said. ‘The annual county health rankings provide us with an additional data set to show exactly where Indiana communities are struggling, as well as providing resources to assist them with their improvement plans.’
The rankings, which can be found online at, include a snapshot of each county in the state with a color-coded map comparing each county’s overall health ranking. The website also includes county-level trend graphs detailing change over time for several of the measures including children in poverty, unemployment and quality of care.
Tony Combs, administrator of the Harrison County Health Dept., said the majority of the factors used to determine the rankings are things his department doesn’t control.
‘Counties with higher incomes and education typically rank high as evidenced by Hendricks, Hamilton and Boone counties being at the top,’ he said. ‘Most of the criteria in the study are based on things like the number of, or access to, doctors and hospitals per capita, the number of bars and liquor stores per capita and high school graduation rates.’
Combs said the health department does have a positive effect on the numbers regarding obesity and smoking prevention.
‘The best take-away from the report is to continue to support business growth and development, improve graduation rates and encourage higher education opportunities for our population in Harrison County,’ he said. ‘All of these things have a positive, indirect affect on our health by providing financially stable and well-informed families.’
According to this year’s rankings, the 10 healthiest Indiana counties based on health outcomes are: Hamilton, Hendricks, Boone, Dubois, LaGrange, Wells, Brown, Tippecanoe, Whitley and Putnam.
On the other end of the spectrum is neighboring Crawford County, which ranks 91st out of 92. The rest of the counties with the lowest outcomes are Lawrence, Vermillion, Sullivan, Orange, Jennings, Starke, Blackford, Fayette and Scott, which was 92nd.
Other nearby counties rank behind Harrison, including Clark (56th), Floyd (60th), Perry (62nd) and Washington (77th).
‘We all have a stake in creating a healthier community, and no single sector alone can tackle the health challenges in any given community,’ Dr. Patrick Remington, professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said. ‘Collaboration is critical. The rankings are sparking action all over the country as people from all sectors join forces to create new possibilities in health, county by county.’