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Report ranks health of Utah's counties; Morgan tops list



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A new report says Morgan County in northern Utah is the healthiest in the state, while Carbon County in central Utah is the unhealthiest.

The report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The groups ranked the overall health of counties across the nation.

County Health Rankings

RankHealth Outcomes
1Morgan
2Cache
3Summit
4Utah
5Davis
6Wasatch
7Box Elder
8Washington
9Salt Lake
10San Juan
<a href=http://media.bonnint.net/slc/1790/179017/17901795.pdf>Robert Wood Johnson Foundation</a>

Researchers say the higher-ranking counties tend to be stronger economically as well. The researchers say so much of health is based on things outside the doctor's office, so they based their rankings on a long list of criteria.

The report says Utah's healthiest counties are where residents are employed, insured and educated and where they take responsibility for their health by smoking less and exercising more.

Their findings put Morgan County at the very top of the list.

The cold weather doesn't keep Jim Gaskill from enjoying Morgan County. While he lives in Davis County, his favorite fishing spot is in Morgan.

"It's a nice river, a lot of fish in it," Gaskill said.

With the amount of recreation opportunities, Gaskill wasn't surprised to learn that a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Morgan County as the healthiest in the state.

"There's a high quality of life up here, and there's not what we think of lower socioeconomic areas," Gaskill said.

His home county wasn't far behind: Davis was No. 5 on the list. Cache, Summit, Utah and Wasatch Counties round out the top 6. Salt Lake County was No. 9.

Weber County came in at 13. It and Morgan County are managed by the same health department.

The challenge with Weber County, officials say, is finding new ways to provide low-cost health opportunities to families just scraping by.

County Health Rankings

RankHealth Factors
1Summit
2Morgan
3Utah
4Cache
5Davis
6Wasatch
7Box Elder
8Kane
9Millard
10Washington
<a href=http://media.bonnint.net/slc/1790/179017/17901795.pdf>Robert Wood Johnson Foundation</a>

Lori Buttars of the Weber and Morgan County Health Department said, "We have a lot of people working but they're covering their bills and maybe not getting the health care they could."

Carbon County was the least healthy county in Utah, followed by Duchesne, Uintah, Sevier, Juab and Kane Counties.

The Southeastern Health Department, which oversees Carbon County, attributes the low ranking to poor funding of health programs.

Those behind the study say they noticed similarities in low-ranking states nationwide.

"The counties that rank at the bottom of overall health are clearly the same counties that are challenged with higher rates of unemployment, lower education," said Dr. Patrick Remington of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Carbon County did rank lower than the rest of the state in college education. Unemployment, however, was about average for Utah and much lower than the national average.

The report ranked counties' health by measuring the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health, both physically and mentally, and the rate of low birth weight babies, among other things.

Daggett, Piute, Rich and Wayne counties weren't ranked.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sarah Dallof and the Associated Press.

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Sarah Dallof

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