Three of Iowa’s top pork-producing counties also have some of the healthiest residents in the state, according to the 2013 County Health Rankings  released March 20 and publicized by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
This is the fourth year of the rankings that show the healthiest and least healthy counties in each state. They are published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
The report shows premature deaths across the nation are at a 20-year low. Among other findings: unhealthy counties have more than twice the rate of premature deaths and childhood poverty rates are double those of healthy counties. The rankings are based on the latest publically available data for each county.
Sioux, Lyon and Plymouth counties are listed as three of the top six healthiest counties in the state and all three are in the top eight in pork production in Iowa.
Sioux County has the healthiest residents in Iowa, ranking first in health outcomes, second in mortality and third in morbidity. It also has the most hogs, according to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, with more than one million head.
Lyon County is the second-healthiest county and is eighth in pork production with more than half a million pigs on farms. The health rankings show Lyon County is fourth in the state in mortality and second in social and economic factors.
The rankings list Plymouth County as the sixth-healthiest in Iowa despite being 48th in the state in health behaviors and clinical care. It is third in pork production in the state with more than 765,000 hogs, according to the 2007 census figures.
Kossuth and Franklin counties rank fourth and fifth in pork production and show up in the rankings as the 24th and 29th healthiest counties, respectively.
The rankings rely on a robust set of data and analysis that allows counties to see what it is that is making residents sick or healthy and how they compare to other counties in the same state. The sponsors say how long and how well people live depends on multiple factors beyond just their access to medical care.
The report examines 25 factors that influence health, including rates of childhood poverty, rates of smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity, and percentages of children living in single-parent households.
The rankings data help lay the groundwork for improvements in health by the governor, mayors, business leaders and citizens.